Just over a month ago I attended a concert and wrote an article titled “Thoughts on an Audience“. I received many responses to this article, both supportive of my perhaps, slightly bitter, but passionate rant and also opposing my opinion. Someone even stating “wow, you are an angry man”. (Which, perhaps is accurate and warranted, but I digress).
This past Friday I attended a concert that was the polar opposite of my experience at that Damien Rice concert at the Orpheum. Everything was right (in my opinion) about this show. The performances. The audience. The atmosphere. Everything was just as a show that you go to appreciate and enjoy should be.
My evening started off with my wife and I lazing around the house. I had mentioned the show a week earlier, forgotten about it, and made a comment about maybe bowing out. The doors opened at 8 and around 7:30 PM we both decided to make the 50 minute drive to Providence and support our good friend Ian Fitzgerald in his opening set for my other good pal, Joe Fletcher.
Upon arriving, we took our sets in the red hue of the upstairs room at the Columbus. I think it seats around 200 folks, but still manages to feel like a tiny, comfortable room. You are huddled right up on top of the stage. Everything about this room is just wonderful to me. It has an old, musty charm. It does for the eyes what listening to vinyl does for the ears, and equally what they both do for the soul.
Ian’s set was fantastic as always. Playing some old favorites with slightly new arrangements and a few of the newer songs off of his upcoming record (with Smith&Weeden as the backing band…god, its so good). His banter was on point when he engaged the audience, and the audience was in deep when he sang his songs. Ian’s tunes are the type that deserve a full attention, his words are some of the best penned and each line may contain your new favorite quote from a song.
Joe Fletcher didn’t waste much time in between sets and hopped right up on stage following Ian and leading in solo with his tune “I Never”. Well, it wasn’t quite “solo” as from the first chorus he had the entire audience singing right along without a prompt. He was “home”. Fletcher’s set seemed like a who’s who of Providence musicians as MorganEve Swain joined him on vocals and fiddle and a slew of other pals including Joe Principe, Greg Burgess, Damian Puerini, and Bryan Minto hopped up for a few tunes. Vudu Sister’s Keith McCurdy also joined Joe on stage, filling a verse and harmonizing with his haunting and moving vocals. And of course, Ian also came back up for a few songs…which felt like two old friends just playing along in a living room and we were all lucky enough to be walking by the open window as it played out. Joe was on fire and the crowd wasn’t going to put out the flames anytime soon. A loose, and relaxed evening that was absolutely brilliant in the end.
There was a lot that this night had going for it. An audience that is attentive and cares about the music and what the musicians have to say. At that other show, even when there wasn’t speaking during the quietest part of the song I found it difficult to enjoy it as I was anticipating the next outburst followed by a barrage of “SHHHHHH”-ing. Here, the audience was just present with one another. Everyone was in the room listening and enjoying together, without having to speak. It was magic…and what I wish every show experience could be. The artists, as a result, engaged with the audience and I think fed on the positive energy. It just felt right. This is why I go and see live music, to see such talent thrive and be appreciated as they should.
So to Joe, Ian, and all the other folks playing this evening and the Columbus Theatre…I thank you wholeheartedly for all you do.