Guru’s Cafe gives local musicians a mic, a meal and cash

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Guru’s Cafe in Provo offers local musicians a venue to perform at on Wednesday nights and has done so for the past five years.

Dean Judd, the cafe’s owner, came up with the idea in an effort to bring more customers into the restaurant.

“At first, we were desperately searching for artists to come play, but now artists are reaching out to us all the time,” Judd said.

About 90 percent of local musicians are willing to play at the restaurant for free, Judd said, but Guru’s insists on paying everyone. The cafe also offers the musicians a free meal for performing.

Isaac Puriri performs at Guru's on Wednesday night. (Photo by Sarah Hill)
Isaac Puriri performs at Guru’s on Wednesday night. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

“Some bands are absolutely horrible, but they network extremely well, so the restaurant is packed,” Judd said. “Some people are great but they don’t know how to draw in a big crowd. It’s interesting to see the difference.”

Overall, Judd believes that it is a good opportunity for local bands not big enough to play in a large venue to play in front of a live audience.

“It’s a win-win,” Judd said. “I help my business, and artists get the chance to play and serve a crowd.”

Kylie Moore, Guru’s front-of-the-house manager and live-music coordinator, has been organizing the band schedule for about two years.

“The No.1 thing that we look for is that bands bring in a big crowd to Guru’s,” Moore said. “Another thing we look for is that they aren’t too loud and that they provide good dinner environment music rather than being in a concert hall.”

After creating a database of local bands, Moore decides which bands will perform and focuses on providing guests a positive experience while they are dining.

“It’s really fun because you know that every Wednesday night there is going to be a different group of people that have never been to Guru’s before,” Moore said. “You just see the look of awe on people’s faces when they see the cool environment that Guru’s offers.”

BYU students make up the largest demographic of musicians that perform, but the cafe has had high school students and professors play as well.

Tolu Aderwinale, a student from Nigeria, is the guitarist for First Class Band. Aderwinale and his band played at Guru’s for the first timeĀ in March.

“Even though we had never played before, it was cool that they gave us a shot,” Aderwinale said.

The band started out practicing in Aderwinale’s basement, but he said because they had a good experience at Guru’s they are planning to do more gigs in the fall when all of the band’s members return to the area.

Oscar Camarillo, Guru’s general manager, has participated in planning the concerts since he began working there three years ago.

“We’ve had so many good bands play here, and we’ve felt proud that we hosted them,” Camarillo said. “And now they’re just big.”

Local favorites pack the restaurant from time to time while newer bands also have the chance to launch themselves.

“We don’t charge extra, and we pay the bands to play here,” Camarillo said. “We give them food, and we pay them cash. No other place will give you that much.”

Guru’s newest project is to exhibit local art in the bakery, Enliten, next door. There is room to hang about 20 paintings, and there is also a place to display sculptures. As with the cafe, this business’ efforts to showcase local artists is beginning to take off: three artists have already featured their masterpieces.

Correction: The first posting of this article said The New Electric Sound has performed at Guru’s. The band has not played at the restaurant.

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