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Empyrean settles into new digs

The Slants, based in Portland, perform Feb. 6 at Empyrean Coffee House.  Courtesy of The Slants (Courtesy of The Slants)
The Slants, based in Portland, perform Feb. 6 at Empyrean Coffee House. Courtesy of The Slants (Courtesy of The Slants)

Coffee house has full music slate, including The Slants

Empyrean Coffee House is cozying up to its new home.

The coffee house, local arts hub and all-ages music venue reopened at the former Big Dipper space, 171 S. Washington St., a couple of weeks ago.

While the sign on the south outside wall still reads Big Dipper, on the inside it’s all Empyrean, as evidenced by the paintings of female Siamese-twin sideshow freaks anchoring the circus mural and coffee-drinking owls on chalkboard menus hanging behind the counter.

A few finishing touches are in the works, like the staircase to the upper seating area and the addition of 10 beer taps behind the bar.

Empyrean already has a full schedule of literary and local and touring music events, highlighted by Chinatown dance-rock band The Slants, which comes to town on Feb. 6.

The main difference between the old Empyrean and the new space is that there’s no longer a dedicated listening room for music.

But owners Chrisy and Michelle Riddle enlisted the help of the local music and arts scene to resculpt the space to serve as a venue and a coffee shop in one.

“Another goal we had when we first opened Empyrean three years ago was that it would be a community center not only for music but for art and writing as well,” Chrisy Riddle said.

“When we moved, we asked friends who are artists to be in charge of various areas – which is why we have a circus theme mural on the bathroom doors and, you know, a figure of female Siamese twins.”

Even with the addition of more seating in the adjusted floor plan, Empyrean’s new occupancy is 110, slightly larger than the former Madison Street space. That will change once the staircase is open to the upper viewing area.

Empyrean is also expanding its menu, offering homemade hummus and pizzas for the lunch crowd.

Tonight at 7, Empyrean hosts local favorite Hey Is For Horses, with White Buffalo and Joe Firstman. Saturday at 7 p.m. is the CD release party for local experimental band Portrait of a Gentleman.

Hailing from Portland, The Slants have been featured on National Public Radio and have packed crowds at both rock clubs and anime festivals.

Band members are all of Asian descent, which they are proud to point out through tongue-in-cheek lyrical references set to Brit-synth-pop-inspired dance gems.