Last night’s show began for me as an excuse to check out Club Passim, and do something with my younger brother Ezra, who was in visiting from Baltimore. So I emailed Seth Glier and Liz Longley, asking if I could get on the guest list and write a review of the show. I figured that at least I’d have something to do with my brother, and I’d give these guys some free publicity on the blog.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for live music. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on something of a folk-rock music bender lately; only listening to Iron & Wine and The Decemberists for the past few days. Maybe it’s because it was the first time Ezra and I have really hung out one on one since Gilad died. Whatever the reason, last night’s show really spoke to me. Packed into Club Passim’s tiny room with about 100 other people, I watched two musicians perform their beautiful music with unbridled emotion and a clear passion for what they were doing.
Liz Longley, opened the show, wowing the crowd with her beautiful voice and wonderful guitar playing. But what got me the most was her Dylan-esque talent of telling a story through song. While the context of each song was relayed to the audience before it was performed, her lyrical storytelling really wowed me, as she was able to not only transform her feelings and emotions into song, but to transmit them to the listener as well. Also, the fact that she closed with an original acoustic hip hop song (which was actually quite good) showed her as a fearless performer who also didn’t take herself too seriously – a difficult task for someone sharing so much emotion with so many people.
Following Liz was Seth Glier who opened his set with the equivalent of a field holler or a work song – complete with singing and stomping. You should check it out before continuing to read, because it’s important that you understand this man’s vocal talent.
Because, this is truly what’s important when it comes to music as a performance art. Many people can reach the notes that Seth reached in the video. And many people can sing with the intensity that he did. But to combine both of those things, and to do it for the first song of a show is a good way to tell the audience: Hey! This isn’t going to be a big stadium style show with flashing lights and no connection between performer and audience. This is going to be intimate. This is going to be intense. I’m going to share a part of myself and my emotional makeup, and I’m going to leave a puddle of sweat here on this stage so that you can truly experience my music as I feel it.
And feel it we did, for his entire set.
For the encore, Liz rejoined Seth onstage for an acapella version of the Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way. Many in the crowd groaned. Others buried their heads in their hands, expressing clear embarrassment for Longley and Glier at their strange choice of an encore. But to me, this was the perfect choice. Here was a song, that beneath its overplayed-ness, its unnatural studio shimmer and gleam, and its vomit inducing tendencies, is at its heart a great pop song. Maybe even a fantastic one. And great pop songs were exactly what was played last night at Club Passim. Wonderfully written and beautifully sung pop songs, stripped down to their bare bones of a lone piano or guitar – but beautiful pop songs nonetheless. Closing out the show with this ironic faux pas of a song showed both their senses of humor and their understanding that beautiful music, no matter the baggage, is at its core just beautiful music, was to me, the perfect end to a wonderful show.