If you were to come to the 1500 block of east Walnut street on a first Friday every month, you’d be entertained by local bands and artists at this spot called No Future Cafe.
You don’t have to go to Old Pasadena to participate in the bar life, plus it’s all-ages, and you give a donation of $5 in support to keep the event going.
On Friday, July 7, seven local bands of various musical styles came to perform in front of an audience comprised of mostly teenagers. Bands like Browdersister, Culled Cub, Nathan Benedict, and The Upside Down were some of the bands that were in attendance.
Tommy Herrera, who goes by the name Culled Cub, was one of the artists that is no stranger to No Future Cafe. He’s been playing music since he was 15, and he wants to continue further down that venture. Towards the end of his set, just to be humorous he sung the words ‘unplug the microphone..’ because there was a minor mic problem. The audience laughed.
“I like to get people laughing,” Herrera said. “I just feel like it brings up the whole mood for everything because if you mess up, people don’t really notice especially if you make light of it.”
17-year-old Hunter Smith has been going to No Future Cafe for six years and has been volunteering for four and a half years, loves being a part of the environment.
“One of my favorite things to see on the working side is everyone having a really good time,” Smith said. “This is a very safe place, and I love that.”
The event, dubbed ‘No Future Fest’ is a play on the Sex Pistols‘ song, called ‘No Future (God save the queen)‘ off the 1977 album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks…’ The idea of running the No Future Café started in 1993 by some college kids who were playing in local bands wanted a creative space to play. Some of these kids were a part of the Pasadena Foursquare Church (PFC), while others were friends of the band members that loved to see them play.
According to the No Future Cafe creative director Adam Hartell, these teenagers had gone to their former pastor Ralph Torres and asked to use the venue, but they didn’t want it to be affiliated as a ‘Christian cafe’. They wanted it to be more about the community having a safe environment to come and do what they love.
“He (Torres) was progressive enough at that time to say ‘I think that’s exactly what we should do,” Hartell said. “The church got behind it, helped financed it, and made it possible.”
Hartell has been involved with the cafe since he was in college in the mid-90s. At that time, he was playing in local bands, especially in those that played at No Future Cafe. He then started hanging out there at the cafe because according to him, he fell in love with what the space was about. He then started giving his time to the space and helped run the event nights while he was studying to be a minister. At some point, he and his wife left the country to work in Norway and Amsterdam and worked 13 years doing similar kinds of initiatives at PFC with other churches there, with the goal to help them add value to their communities. Upon returning back to Pasadena, he became the creative director of No Future Cafe.
“So my background is as a minister I was working in the church here and doing stuff with local musicians and artists in this space,” Hartell said. “That really shaped my understanding of what I do (now).”
Like the church, No Future Cafe is also operated as a non-profit so the teens who contribute their time are all volunteers. Some of them have, or are currently working, at a local Starbucks to supplement the time they’ve spent at the cafe helping Hartell out. According to Hartell, the teens love what’s coming out from the creative space.
The venue itself was never used by the church as a platform to proselytize, or to get people to come to church. In fact, the cafe was started as a social initiative of the PFC to give back to the community.
“They say it’s all about building the direction outward and giving value to the community,” Hartell said.
The cafe has been running since 1994 with a brief halt in 2014 for renovation. No Future Cafe has reopened a little over two and a half years ago and is going strong.
Hartell maintains a lot of relationships with the artists that come by and play at No Future Cafe. Although he doesn’t charge the artists to play there, Hartell lets them sell their merchandise at the venue in which he gets no percentage of.
They want to get the word out about the cafe to the locals, wanting anyone to come by and have a good time. They’re willing to accept donations to also help keep the nights going, allowing others who likes what’s going on at No Future Cafe to spread the word about the creative space for all ages.
“No Future survives on the kindness of other people…,” Hartell said. “The parishioners of this church (PFC)… the people that gives a donation at the door… it’s like a co-op in that sense.”