Three Tapes Tame Cafe Nine
Eric Stevenson leaned heavily over the piano, his arms outstretched like wings, his hands like spiders. Complex note figures flowed from his fingers, and he sang in a clear, high voice, as announced without irony, about “defiant hope. Nearby, with her back to the audience but her work clearly visible, Elizabeth Jancewicz deftly started with a blank canvas and proceeded to paint a bird in the woods. Then she set it all on fire. Those in the audience sat in almost complete silence, giving their full attention to the music and the artwork. It was this kind of evening at Café Nine, the one where the crowd gave free rein to the musicians’ room, and obtained, in return, a show of rare intimacy.
The night began with New Haven-based SG Carlson doing a now unusual solo set, as he himself commented early in his hour. “I’m part of a group called the Tines,” he said, “but tonight you only have one Tine. Thanks to Bombadil for lending me their capo.
It turned out that a Tine was all evening required. A conversation towards the back of the room quieted down two songs in Carlson’s set and the club – with a good-sized crowd – remained that way for the rest of the evening, applauding each song and then returning to undivided attention. This allowed Carlson to deliver relaxed and haunting versions of his full songs. Time suddenly felt later in the best possible sense when Carlson described a song as evoking, for him, the feeling of finishing a show and stopping on the way home for a late-night coffee to stay awake. on the way back.
“There’s no one else around and there’s something lovely about it,” he said. Which led him to introduce the next band, Pocket Vinyl, which he felt was at gig number 995 since his debut as a band (Pocket Vinyl is about to celebrate his 1,000th gig with a gig in his city native of Norwich). “Which, if my math is right,” Carlson added, “means about 995 late night coffees.
The Pocket Vinyl duo then quickly took to the stage, Stevenson almost immediately engaging in banter with the crowd as Jancewicz silently lingered on the paint job. As Stevenson explained, he would play seven songs. At this time, Jancewicz would complete an original painting. At the end of the show, this painting would be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“We’re going to play songs about defying hope,” Stevenson said. “Some songs about death. Maybe some non-sexy songs about sex. With a twinkle in his eye, he continued. “I don’t want to spoil things, but we are a very good group. Fantastic!” The audience laughed. “And now that the expectations are high, the chances of failure are all the higher, which is exciting! »
Stevenson tore up his first song as Jancewicz darkened the canvas with quick brush strokes, then began laying out the image. Stevenson proved to be a dynamic performer, amply filling the club with piano and vocals as he sang two anthemic songs in a row, evoking that promised defiant hope. The audience responded with loud applause, then fell silent.
“Look at you, look at us, pay attention! Stevenson said. For Stevenson, that meant a chance to switch to suddenly quieter material, because, as he put it, “what is our relationship if we don’t challenge each other? The audience laughed again. He explained that he would perform two songs back to back. “I’ll let you know when it’s applause time.
Stevenson was obviously joking when he exclaimed that Pocket Vinyl was a really good band, but on Wednesday night the combination of Stevenson’s music and Jancewicz’s artistry proved to be mesmerizing indeed. Stevenson took a moment of humility. “I know you’re a mixed audience, but if that’s the attention you always get, let’s shoot together,” he said. “You can tell I love the attention, and this fills my cup! By the end of the set, there was a strong sense of camaraderie in the air.
“I had no intention of forming a community,” Stevenson sang in one of the songs, “I had no idea who shared that frequency. Wednesday night, everyone did.
So the room wasn’t so much heated as laser-focused for Bombadil, stalwarts of Durham, NC’s indie folk scene. and MK Rodenbough – moved easily through a set of originals as the audience drank in each one, washing them each down with a round of applause. Bombadil’s music is deceptively simple. They don’t write songs with many parts and infuse them with elliptical lyrics, giving each number a sense of possibility, every time. About halfway through the set, the band began to open up, telling a story that sounded like the music being played. Before performing a short a cappella number from the British Isles, Phillips explained that he had already been to a club in Germany – “looks a lot like this place,” he added – and ended up singing the song with the bartender, who was Scottish. After they were done,“I looked up and tears were streaming from his eyes onto his motorcycle jacket. It was really something.”
The delivery and receipt lent the story the vibe of a koan. A certain meaning was conveyed. The audience may not have been able to articulate it, but it was felt, in the silence before the next song.