It’s distinguished only by a small, blue, hand-made sign that hangs over the stage, tucked away inside the fellowship hall of Northpark Presbyterian Church. People in Dallas may not be familiar with Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse, but in the folk music circle, it’s an almost iconic destination.

Uncle Calvin’s was established in 1982 as an alternative to the bar and club scene on Greenville Avenue. The Rev. Trey Hammond, associate pastor of Northpark, started the venue to provide a place where people could actually sit and listen to good music – minus the alcohol and cigarette smoke. Manager Ed Gunsalus says there are similar venues in nearly every Texas city set in coffeehouses inside churches, and Uncle Calvin’s was the first of its kind anywhere near Dallas.

Every Friday night, fans pack into Uncle Calvin’s to hear everything from complete unknowns to celebrated folk artists like Sarah Hickman. In its early days, the coffeehouse hosted Emily and Martie Irwin while they were still in junior high and high school. Most people know them today as part of The Dixie Chicks. Uncle Calvin’s hosted the band’s first album release party for “Thank Heavens for Dale Evans”.

Uncle Calvin’s is run by a group of dedicated volunteers from all over the Metroplex – they’re the scraggly-haired guys walking around in tie-dye shirts, continuously bobbing their heads to the music. They run a pretty good sound system, too, as evidenced by last weekend’s show by Austin bluegrass band The Lost Pines. The high-energy performance exploded throughout the room.

Admission to Uncle Calvin’s is $12-$18, which may seem like a lot. But, it’s a nonprofit venue, and all proceeds benefit The Stew Pot and other local organizations that feed the hungry in Dallas. Coffee and most of the snacks and desserts provided are $1.

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