So, I was finally comfortable. Despite the show’s silence that made my class clown spirit submit and the humbling conversations with people who would forever trump my attempts at creativity, I finally felt at ease entering the Michaux House last Tuesday. To be honest, I had expectations. My anticipation came with the same familiarity that presents itself when returning home for the holidays. As the Listening Room greeted me like the warm embrace of an inebriated relative, the aroma of pastries and coffee filled my nostrils. I was home.
Nevertheless, the moment the first act took stage, all notions of safety and assumption found their nearest exit. Blasco elegantly picked through “Candy” and the room traveled over sea and through time to a France from long ago. Shocked and mesmerized, my pretentious perspective was left behind, never to return for the rest of the evening. Blasco put on a tremendous performance as his bold melodies collided with the lush tones of an old guitar. The product was one of the most innovative sounds I have ever heard. His music’s originality was a slap across the face much like the first time I heard Elliott Smith in high school. It was compelling, challenging and unpredictable. Supporting his spontaneity, Blasco’s ability to effortlessly move between French and English kept the audience on its toes. His witty explanation of each song was a show in itself, often causing the Listening Room to erupt with laughter before Blasco revealed his creation. From the soaring vocals of “Clock” to the whispers of “Go” Blasco’s set was dynamic and refreshing. It shook me free of complacency and left a trail of haunting tones echoing off the walls.
Following a brief intermission (back in modern day RVA), And the Wireman tuned up and started into a series of songs that struck a chord with the evening’s sense of exploration. Hailing from New York, the city seemed to have saturated the band’s sound before sending them out as missionaries to the musically stagnant. As And the Wireman graced the stage a subtle energy began to fill the room. Something was different. It took me several moments to realize that my heart rate had increased at the hand of an electric guitar. Departing from the organic comfort of previous Listening Rooms, And the Wireman sailed into uncharted waters with the introduction of ambient jazz riffs and Indie pedal effects. Paired with the esteemed trumpet of Paul Watson and South American rhythms, the band presented a unique style that put listeners in a trace. Front man Lynn Wright unleashed soulful vocals and provocative lyrics that were a treat for the ear and mind. “Sharpen Your Knives” was my favorite of their set. It had the attitude of Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned” with the voice of Brooklyn’s suave city streets.
Listening Room XI pushed my envelope. Just when I had it calculated, the old world sound of Blasco met the charming edge of And the Wireman and I was blown away. Unfortunately, the coffee pots ran dry, the baked goods were devoured and the night had to come to a close. My parting gift was a humbled anticipation for Tuesdays to come.