Saint Etienne return to Mario's Cafe
- Credit: Johnny Green
Photos of the band Saint Etienne are up on the walls of the Kentish Town cafe they immortalised in song.
Hampstead photographer Johnny Green shot the images at gigs in London, Manchester, Leamington Spa and Birmingham between 2000 and 2021. They will hang in Mario's Cafe until July 14 - the coffee shop celebrated in Saint Etienne's classic track from 1993.
"They wrote the song as a celebration of everything wonderful about our favourite cafes and Mario's Cafe is my favourite cafe in London," said Johnny, who works as a photojournalist, mostly for PA.
"Almost 30 years after the song was crafted, the cafe is still there, still under the management of Mario, the nicest man in the world. In fact, it was his grandfather, also called Mario, who opened a restaurant there in 1958 for his son, called Tony's Restaurant. When Tony passed away, Mario took it on as a tribute to both his father and grandfather."
Formed in London in 1990, the indie dance band includes former Highgate and Crouch End resident Bob Stanley. They continue to play Mario's Cafe in their live sets, and are due to appear at the Glastonbury Festival on June 24.
A "fan first and foremost", Johnny started snapping Saint Etienne's gigs while studying photography in the late '90s.
"I heard their first album Foxbase Alpha and was sold. A lot of bands go away and come back but they never split up and release records and play fairly regularly. Musically they are strong, there are no duff albums, and they are still great live. Their manager Martin Kelly has been very supportive and gives me a photo pass whenever they play so I've become their live photographer."
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Happily living in Hampstead for 11 years, Johnny often heads down the road to Mario's.
"It took me years to realise that the track was about a real cafe, then months to bother to find it. When I walked in, there were half a dozen punters and a guy playing acoustic guitar. That was Mario. I have never left without having a really interesting conversation with other customers, and Mario is a truly lovely gentleman."
Some of the 15 photographs were used a book of photos of the band, but many are "largely unseen".
"I realised I had 20 years' worth of work that's never seen much action. There was a lot of stuff to choose from and the cafe was an obvious place to show them."
Saint Etienne at Mario's Cafe runs until July 14 at 6, Kelly Street, Kentish Town, open 8am to 4pm, Wednesday to Saturday. http://www.marioscafe.com/