Last Thursday, John Barthmus of Philadelphia psychedelic band Sun Airway played at a party to celebrate an opening of Sweetgreen, a salad-yogurt cafe that opened this week in Suburban Square in Ardmore. This is the first outside of the Washington, D.C. area, where there are seven of them. Cool Pitchfork praised indie band singing for their supper at a mall in the 'burbs - kinda weird, right? Well, it was, with Barthmus, who used to be in the more jangly, less electronic A-Sides, standing on a table with no P.A., while tiny (and quite tasty, thank you) quiches were being served, and all too few people paying attention.
Except it's not that weird, really, because this is the way the music business works these days. Sweetgreen, it turns out, was founded by a bunch of young Georgetown grads who are branding the business as being cool, organic, locavoirsh and sustainable. (Note the way the wall looks like a lettuce leaf.) As part of the marketing plan, music plays a crucial role, just as it does for coffee chains like Starbucks and lifestyle emporiums such as Urban Outfitters, whose savvy music honcho Dryw Scully manages Sun Airway.
Go to Sweetgreen's blog and you'll see that it's "Music Friday" and find a playlist streaming tunes by Mark Ronson, Kid Cudi and Dr. Dre. Last year, the salad chain put on a music festival caled Sweetlife headlined by Hot Chip. And for Barthmus, who was good natured about the strangeness of the whole situation - "I have a lot more respect for people who play in coffee shops now," he said, from his tabletop - it was a make-the-most-of-it chance to get his music heard in what could be an important outlet for his band.