May 26, 2010

The Listening Room--bluesy folk

Last night was my first time at The Listening Room, a grassroots local movement for an intimate gathering to hear music, in the basement of a building attached to St. James' Episcopal Church. Blogger friends had written about it before, and a friend told me last week about this one, so I dove out of VLPP a little early last night to attend. I'm so glad I did.

The room had over 100 people in it, with standing room only, which apparently was the biggest crowd TLR has ever had. The first trio, Brown Bird, was amazing. Seriously wow. They were folksy and bluesy and from Rhode Island (never would have thought this kind of music would be from RI). I was lucky to be surrounded by music geek friends and everyone in the room truly appreciated the music. One guy sang lead, played guitar, and played a homemade drum set of sorts. I was flabbergasted that he could keep 4 different things going at once. His voice was scratchy and strong and full of emotion. The woman sang, played guitar, cello, and violin and was great to watch. The third member was playing a dobro, which I'd never seen before but am told is a popular blues instrument. It's like playing a guitar on it's side, with strings higher off the frets, and plugged in. It has a such a honeyed, high sound. Their songs were intricate and enjoyable.

The poor musicians were melting under the hot garage-like lights. Someone needs to work on better lighting for next time--that was just cruel. The second group, Homemade Knives, had 5 members, and the sound was much more mellow.  I didn't know an accordian could sound pretty. The singer admitted he was nervous, but did himself a disservice because, while I totally relate to stage fright, the more you tell us that you aren't any good, the more likely we are to start to believe it. His voice was clear and strong and twangy with no hint of nervousness. RVA Magazine has an in-depth interview with one of the musicians from the band. It's got great insight into their personality.

It was wild to hear these all fairly young musicians sing and play with such emotion. The lyrics were so smart, but old soul.

Brown Bird was definitely my favorite. I even considered buying a CD, had I brought money, but my friend got the vinyl so I"ll be able to hear it again. Clearly a requirement for male membership in a folk band that night was to have a full-on beard, and the room was full of hipsters, but also had quite a few older participants and non hipsters like me.

We finished the night up with a lovely walk to Cous Cous for a nightcap and some conversation. They have a fun cocktail menu and I got a Pimm's Cup, something I've been talking about lately. It was very sweet. I love my city.

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