For a while now I’ve wanted to write up a review of Muse Music. As a member of Electron Deception now, as well as previous bands in the past, I’ve spent a handful of nights on the stage at Muse. More importantly, however, I keep going back as an audience member and café patron. The atmosphere is gritty and rock and roll, and the people who work there are among the coolest members of the local music scene. There’s also really good food and innovative community events. In other words, Muse Music is one of Provo’s most valuable treasures.
Food: Muse Music has been a staple of Provo’s music scene for a long time, but in recent years owners Jake and Melissa Haws converted the front half of the space from a record store to a full fledged café. The menu fluctuates somewhat: there used to be soups and other assorted items, but today they mostly just serve sandwiches and snacks. Still, the current offerings illustrate well the old cliché “only the strong will survive.” I’d recommend the Ultimate Grilled Cheese. I know, you can make a grilled cheese sandwich at your house, but you can’t make this sandwich at your house. I was skeptical at first too but now I’m hooked. The Turkey Pesto is a close second. There’s also a wide array of Italian Sodas. I’m not actually a huge fan of Italian Soda generally, but these ones are as good as any I’ve tried elsewhere, so if that’s your thing, go for it.
Atmosphere: One of the best parts about Muse Music is the way they’ve partitioned their space. You can treat it as a restaurant, a music venue, or some combination of both. If you’re not into local bands go pick up some food in the early evening and there’ll be a quiet cafe ambiance; if you want to feel like your in the thick of things, go later (they’re usually open late because of shows). One of my favorite things to do is to go see a band I like but when it gets too loud move to the café where I can still hear the music but it’s quiet enough to have a conversation. Also, check the calendar for special events. All summer they’ve been doing movie screenings on Monday nights and there are frequently acoustic nights, jazz nights, and free open mic nights. (Keep in mind that if you go to something free at Muse Music, it doesn’t hurt to buy a drink or something. That’s how they stay in business and pay the rent. Don’t mooch, it’s lame and if people don’t buy stuff obviously businesses go away.)
Service: The service at Muse Music is what I’d call “local.” That means that you might have to wait for the person taking concert admission money to finish and come make your sandwich, and that nothing operates with the slick efficiency of a franchise business. I think these things actually make the place more personable and charming, but if you’re expecting generic fast food (or if you’re just a jerk), you might be let down. In the end, the up side of “local” service is that if you go in a bunch, you’ll be remembered; if your friendly, you might have an interesting conversation with the person on the other side of the counter; if you hang out for a bit you might see some cool art or discover a new local band. Ultimately, Jake and Melissa are among the nicest, coolest people I’ve met and it seems like they hire people who take after them.
Whether you’re into local music or not, Muse Music is a great place to hang out, eat, and participate in local culture. It provides (much needed) continuity to the rapidly changing downtown area and, if you aren’t careful, it might make you start to fall in love with Provo.