HomeBlogsJeff Hewitt's blogWe whistle in the dark to know we're not alone: The Speakeasy Continues at Charlies

We whistle in the dark to know we're not alone: The Speakeasy Continues at Charlies

February 16, 2018868Views

In the past, This would be a piece of prose containing some argument about stopping gun violence. But I no longer have any hope that that's going to happen. Not while the people who are in charge now remain so, anyways. This is supposed to be a review of a show. And I'll get there. But fuck all.. I'm broken today.

Mostly, I just feel numb. Vaguely horrified. I'm holding the slaughter of children to the edges of conscious thought. All I know is that I'm exhausted by the cycle. By the ridiculous arguments coming from people who refuse to give an inch. Who are simply willing to accept that this is the world in order to continue buying ammunition at Walmart. I'm fucking tired.

It feels surreal to be sitting here waiting for a couple of bands to start playing while some poor janitor bastard is stuck in Parkland scrubbing what used to be human beings off a schoolhouse floor. But as I look around me at the mostly young faces in attendance, it confirms the suspicion that most of us are just doing whatever we can to get to the next day. Sometimes that means making yourself leave the living room to go be in a place where there are other humans. Sometimes that means shrugging off the shroud of useless death to celebrate acts of creation. Sometimes you just need to dance.

Pyrrhic Whim

We're losing Pyrrhic Whim's originator to a bigger city, and it's a goddamn shame. Kelsie McNair has been a jewel for Norfolk in any of her many projects spanning all manner of arts, but I've nursed a secret crush on her music most of all. This time around Tyler Warnalis backed her up, and I have to admit that of all Pyrrhic Whim's incarnations, I like this duo the best.

While nominally in the vein of Kate Bush's milieu, further introspection brings to mind the experimental whimsy of Laurie Anderson. McNair's voice carries a soulful, slightly weary earthiness to it that I adore. And her songs.. Bleed. I don't know how else to say it. They bleed. Raw chunks of emotion packed into atmospheric music that makes you feel something despite yourself.

I'm going to miss her, terribly when she's gone -- but I hope the move brings all manner of success and we get many, many albums from the future.

Black Lion Insurgents

Synnika Lofton and Tundè bring an old school grit to contemporary production values. This is urbane, deeply conscious hip hop with a militant edge. Literate and compelling. They just released a debut EP and are working hard to support it -- Pick up a copy here:

Their performance was polished, and they came hard straight from the start. These are consummate performers and master craftsmen.

The sound they put out surprised me, as they follow the convention of many hip hop groups to perform live over backing tracks and I usually find that approach to be somewhat thin. How much of that is due to their production and how much of that can be credited to Charlie's sound engineer, Andrew Briggs? I'm not knowledgeable enough to say with any certainty, but I suspect it's a bit of both as bands at Charlie's almost never sound bad.

All that said, I'd love to see this duo come out with a live band behind them, but I get why something like that isn't generally feasible. You should see these guys anytime you have the chance. Black Lion Insurgents is only going to get bigger as time goes on.


I've been thinking about Elynor Freyss' music since I got home, and I don't really know how to write about it. Some of this is because I don't know that what I heard last night is actually something that will be repeated. And that's part of what seems so compelling about her as an artist.

Her performance at Charlie's was centered around what could be referred to as the musical equivalent of Latin. Songs that might be studied, but rarely reinterpreted for live, contemporary performance. In Elynor's capable hands a piece from someone like Judy Garland is born anew. This is a **serious** musician with the kind of chops you only pick up from deep immersion in classical forms. The term, musicologist, comes to mind.

All together, I'm fascinated by this artist. She seems like the type of musician other musicians fall in love with. I searched online for something to link and what I found doesn't sound anything like what we got on stage. She's obviously experimental and wide ranging in esoteric approaches and hidden knowledge. My impression is that this is a rare, beautiful soul.

I hope we see more of her on the stage, soon.

The Poets

The entire conceit of Speakeasy is TBA Productions attempt to bring some poets to the stage. This show we got former NSU Creative Writing professor, Daniel Pearlman's angrily sharp political work. John Regan Wharton ably subbed in at the last second for a poet who couldn't make the show.

Dylan Rozzelle stepped up at the last minute to read for what he professed was his first time ever, only to launch into startling, provocative work that was well performed. I literally know little about him other then that he's also a photographer who shoots with film -- but if he hasn't had any other performance experience, the guy's a natural. And if he has some chops from something else he's been doing, they translated more than effectively into what was an emotional, gut punching rendition of his work. I hope we see him again.

Hands down, the poet of the night for me was Jerome Spencer, who I specifically came out to hear. Spencer's work is raw and bloody and deeply personal. His lines surprise you. The poems themselves lurk around the room without titles, and one almost feels as though they are hunting for something. There are haunting pieces of bone and gristle in these verses.

He has a chapbook out, entitled "everyone around me is you." You should buy and read it if you're lucky enough to see him at another reading.

Daniel Pearlman

John Regan Wharton

Dylan Rozzelle

Jerome Spencer

Words and pictures by Jeff Hewitt