Acclaimed singer/songwriter Greg Holden made his return to New York City on September 23rd. Opening for Butch Walker, who produced his single, “On The Run,” Holden’s performance was like a homecoming. It’s a rare thing for an opener, especially one singularly armed with an acoustic guitar, to hush Irving Plaza from front to back, but Holden managed to wield this uncanny power with effortless ability.
When Holden first emerged from the side of the stage, the crowd’s vigorous, impassioned applause was astonishing. He strolled out with an unassuming, quiet confidence and began strumming as the audience quickly fell silent. As his 7-song set kicked off, Holden was oftentimes chatty between songs, lending an affable familiarity with a room of people whom he’d never met, treating them like valued friends. Constantly encouraging the crowd to sing and clap during parts of his songs, Holden’s set was interactive, a joint, group effort.
On “Home,” Holden issued a command for the audience to stop their feet in time to the beat. In turn, he received an eager assent as the stomps echoed throughout the venue and shook the floor. Holden’s newest track, “The Power Shift,” was prefaced by a quick lament, noting Donald Trump was currently in the city. The audience loudly booed, prompting Holden to launch into this political song, calling others to recognize the link between power and inequality, and one that was more than well-received in New York City.
“Boys In The Streets,” arguably Holden’s most moving song, showcases his lyrical prowess, one that is omnipresent throughout his work. Telling the story of a father struggling with his son’s sexuality, it’s only on his deathbed that he makes a confession: his intolerance was due to what he was taught growing up. He finally understands and encourages his son to be himself. Holden’s live performance evoked the pathos and pain of both son and father, and cheers went through the crowd as Holden reached the uplifting conclusion.
Lastly, Holden performed “Hold On Tight,” a triumphant, empowering song that bursts into a big, gleeful chorus as he sang an urgent warning: “don’t take your life for granted.”
It was an awe-inspiring set from a seasoned musician, one who will no doubt be back to New York City in the future.
If you haven’t seen Lauren Ruth Ward yet – no matter what type of music you’re into – you’re 110% missing out. An incredible rock songstress with a slight twang, Lauren Ruth Ward’s music reaches far and wide in its influence. But her live performance is absolutely unheard of, which is why it was so easy for Christie McMenamin to dive in and get photos of this young talent during her recent show at Zone One in some breathtaking lowlight.
Frontman James Alex of Beach Slang brought his stripped-down project, Quiet Slang, to Brooklyn’s Rough Trade on July 9th.
It was a rainy Monday evening, and the show had been rescheduled from a prior date. Given those conditions, Alex was unsure, as he relayed to the audience between songs, how many people would show up. However, those concerns proved to be unfounded as the room was filled with fans hanging on every word.
Unlike Beach Slang shows, which are loud, clamorous, and brash, Quiet Slang is another entity entirely. As heard on Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, Quiet Slang’s debut LP, Alex has taken his work with Beach Slang and reimagined it, doing away with its thrashing, thunderous elements. Instead, Alex takes a sparse, orchestral approach: cello and piano, paired with his gritty vocals, give these formerly driving punk songs space to breathe, resurrecting them with new, balladic life.
This was reflected decoratively, as well. The stage set its own scene with flowers and strings of white lights with makeshift cotton clouds hanging in the distance. The rest of the venue was pitch-black save for a projector screen playing images of ballet dancers. Moving through the set, Alex was all heart from his honest vocals and earnest speeches of appreciation, thanking his fans over and over.
Quiet or loud, Alex delivered his audience an unforgettable night.
On July 11th, TOMI rocked The Mercury Lounge.
Filing in through the front door, the immediate rush of air conditioning was a relief on such a muggy summer evening. Fans made their way first to the bar, then into the stage area, filling the room. As TOMI walked through the crowd, cheers rippled through the audience, making their way from back to front. A magnetic performer, TOMI took possession of the room from the very first note, packing an almost unprecedented power into her wide-ranging vocals. Her music provides the perfect combination of rock and pop: some songs led the audience to dance, others to head-banging. The joy and abandon in the air was just as palpable as the outside heat, and radiated off the talkative TOMI, who spent time in-between songs sharing the stories behind them. Some of these were heartbreaking; she spoke of crying in a locker room at a yoga studio after a breakup, and a former friend suffering from addiction (she doesn’t think he ever heard the song she wrote about him, but she hopes he does at some point and recognizes it). Then, of course, there were some funnier ones, such as working a day job as a secretary in which she had to smile all the time. For her very last song, she delighted the crowd by debuting a new, sparkly guitar named Pam.
It’s clear that for TOMI, the Mercury Lounge and her latest EP, What Kind of Love, is only the beginning.
Ciaran Lavery, an Irish singer/songwriter, performed an intimate solo set at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall on June 22nd.
Playing to a small, darkened room, a reverent silence took hold of the audience the moment Lavery began his first song. Switching back and forth between acoustic guitar and piano, his sparse accompaniments allowed his gentle, hushed voice to soar. With introspective, narrative lyrics, Lavery is a poetic storyteller. His ballads pull at your heartstrings, his words run the gamut of emotional experience. As a performer, he makes meaningful eye contact with each member of his audience, drawing his listeners further into his world.
In-between songs, Lavery continued his stories, revealing his sense of humor. Speaking of nervousness on an airplane, he once tried to relax by watching, as a dog lover, Marley and Me. He wasn’t, however, aware of the ending. Lavery also had a revelation while listening to the radio on a long drive, attempting to figure out the meaning of the genre “soft rock.” With a creeping sense of dread, he put it together: he is soft rock. Lavery easily pulled laughs from his listeners’ throats as he framed simple, universal experiences as ones of casual mirth.
More info about Lavery can be found here.