September 22, 2023

There is a much to be said about the culture surrounding intimate music settings. Los Angeles has The Echo, New York has The Bowery Ballroom, and Nashville has Bluebird Cafe. These iconic venues are staples of the music industry in their respective cities. Riverside has Back to the Grind.

Located in downtown Riverside, Back to the Grind is more than just a coffeehouse in the Inland Empire.

“Back to the Grind is a really artsy, alternative space”, said Sara George, senior fine arts major. “The upstairs is full of books, art and decor filling every shelf, wall and even ceiling. The seating is a mix of painted tables, couches and loft and outdoor seating. It’s honestly a space for a bit of everything. The open mic nights happen downstairs in the basement, which has concrete floors and again, random seating. It’s a super welcoming atmosphere, very diverse and inclusive.”

But do not let eclectic seating and books fool you. Not only is this space quaint and unique, but it is well equipped to support the needs of artists who perform there. 

Sophia Knox, sophomore music major, of the band The Not Quites, who have performed at Back to the Grind, described the ambiance of the coffee shop and said that is excited to perform there again.

“Their sound equipment allowed for a full mix of my live music in an intimate, house-show type of setting,” Knox said. “Personally, Back to the Grind is a favorite of mine and I would love to play a gig there again in the future.”

However, the number of performances and general attendance have slowed due to precautions regarding COVID-19. Many venues have seen a decline and even closed temporarily for safety reasons and this hotspot has not been immune to the pandemic.

Back the Grind employees said they have noticed a shift in attendance, especially at their popular open mic nights.

“It makes sense that people are worried about social distancing and taking it seriously,” said a Back to the Grind employee. “I do miss the days when people were vibing together and I hope we can go back to the way things were soon.”

As many venues in the area begin to open indoors at lower capacity, Back to the Grind serves as an important part of small yet vibrant and personal art scene in Riverside. Local Riverside artists and music lovers are excited for the coffee shop to return to hosting artist at their  open mic nights. 

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