Love, Sacramento style

True Love Coffeehouse celebrates its third anniversary this weekend with Ghetto Moments

Ghetto Moments, the charming self-portrait: Allyson and Kevin Seconds.

Ghetto Moments, the charming self-portrait: Allyson and Kevin Seconds.

Photo By Allyson Seconds

True Love Coffeehouse’s third anniversary party with Ghetto Moments; 9 p.m. Saturday, January 31; at the True Love Coffeehouse, 2406 J Street; with Mike Park; $8. Advance tickets (available at the venue) advised.

We all have those moments.

For Kevin and Allyson Seconds, the husband-and-wife team who own and operate the Midtown all-ages venue True Love Coffeehouse, one of them occurred when the couple was driving around town in what Kevin described as their “snazzy” minivan.

“Al noticed the long crack in the windshield and said, ‘We’re pretty ghetto, aren’t we?’” Kevin recalled. “And I responded with something like, ‘We definitely have our ghetto moments.’ Right then and there, I knew that that just had to be the name of my next musical project.”

The use of “ghetto” as an adjective, of course, can be tricky nomenclature. But the word, whose origin stems from the name of an island near Venice where 16th-century Jews were forced to live, referred to the often-walled-off Jewish quarters in old European cities before it came to signify American neighborhoods where members of the underclass, typically African-American, are concentrated. And now, through the marvelous mutation of language, the word turns up—right or wrong—as a pop-culture catchphrase, as in “That’s sooooo ghetto.”

So, it might be easy to read too much into the Seconds’ name for their newest project, which features Kevin on guitar and Allyson on keyboards, along with occasional members David Houston on baritone guitar, Dave Brockman on drums and other surprise guests. No, Ghetto Moments’ music is neither an outgrowth of James Brown’s relentlessly rhythmic tracks from the 1960s, nor is it a Philly soul soundtrack to a 1970s blaxploitation flick. As Kevin put it: “Little. Simple. Melodic. Tons of harmonies.”

The new band has been together a little more than five months and has played both of its gigs at the True Love. Kevin and Allyson also play together in Go National. Kevin is still singing in front of longtime positive punk band 7Seconds, which has been described as a West Coast analogue to the Washington, D.C., Minor Threat-Fugazi axis—“and probably will be until I collapse into a sweaty, smelly heap onstage somewhere,” he said—and he recently returned from a solo tour in the United Kingdom.

Throughout the years, Kevin has been involved in a number of 7Seconds side projects, a few of them involving Allyson: Go National, 5’10” and Mustard. “I keep trying to come up with cool names for my solo work,” he explained, “and it ends up turning into yet another little band project I do with my wife.”

But while music-making is a big part of Kevin and Allyson’s lives, their primary focus, for the past three years, has been the True Love Coffeehouse, which takes up the bottom floor of a Victorian house turned commercial building at 2406 J Street. The business opened its doors on February 1, 2001, the culmination of a long-held ambition—as Allyson put it—to foster community and a coffeehouse culture they found lacking in Sacramento. “Throughout our travels, both in the states and abroad,” she said, “our favorite cities and towns always had these cool, funky cafes. And Sacto had a majority of corporate-owned cookie-cutter joints that lacked personality.”

Allyson recalled the True Love’s opening night in vivid detail. “I was still working on the blackboard menu after we turned the open sign on,” she said, “and I hadn’t had a chance to train anyone yet on the espresso machine—so I was stuck in the kitchen the entire night.”

While Allyson seems more anchored to the coffeehouse’s tiny kitchen than to the nearby stage, Kevin typically can be found somewhere between the stage and the sound board. For him, the development and progress of younger local performers—he cites the Miles, Estereo, St. Simon 3, Life Is Bonkers, Christopher Fairman and Radio Cure (the latter a “favorite” of his that did a split CD-R with Ghetto Moments)—is a matter of pride and joy.

“Because we’re such a small venue,” he said, “we’re not able to book a lot of bands in town. But I think we’re doing what we can to provide the ‘small’ bands and singer-songwriters with a warm, friendly, supportive, steady place to build up a fan base.”

It’s one more little thing that makes Sacramento a nicer place to call home.