Playing folk music in coffee shop is a treacherous path to walk.
You wouldn't think so, given how inextricably the two have been linked in the collective unconscious of the country. Dylan. Baez. Seeger. Utah Phillips. I could go on and on with the name dropping, assembling a veritable horde of guitar slinging hippies. But that was then, and now is now. Back before iPods and internet, back even before Walkmans. In the sixties, folk musicians saved us from the utter horror having to actually talk to each other while sipping brown sludge -- you couldn't hear each other over the din of bongos and yodeling, or whatever the hell those crazy acid freaks used to do. Today, we have laptops for that shit.
Point being: Your coffee shop is a haven to sit and do work, or browse the web aimlessly while ameliorating whatever anxiety disorder modern times has left stranded you with. The last thing you want to see when walking into the Sacred Safe Space of Our Caffeinated Lady is a band setting up. Hell, I live for live music, and even I'm struck somewhat by a vague sense of existential dread when I see musicians putting their gig together at Stella's. And yet.. Serious Black has completely charmed and won me over.
Maybe it's the sly Harry Potter reference in their naming. The fact that they've matched their sound levels perfectly to their environment doesn't hurt. There's certainly been more than one occasion when a band has walked in here, knobs glued to eleven, and driven me outside faster than Snape killed.. Ah.. Never mind. Lizzie Black and Drew Lopenzina have put together a sound that reaches for some impressive harmonies, walking up to that earnest line without taking it too far. The set list features a nice mix of popular covers alongside some more traditional folk, peppered here and there with originals. We've seen Lopenzina before, he was featured at WHRO's songwriters competition a number of months back at O'Connors, where he acquitted himself more than respectably. But the combination of his chops with Black's solid vocal work makes for an impressive pairing. I very quickly found myself in a great mood, happily tapping my foot as their set progressed.
Nothing about this should work in this day and age. And yet? It absolutely does.
There doesn't seem to be much in the way of social media or bandcamp going on here. Which means that for now, this is a group that needs to be experienced live. But I'm telling you: No bullshit. This is a real band. That you should pay real attention to. That should be booked in larger venues than a coffee shop. This is a pair that gets it. That understands what their audience is. That feels the music they're bringing. And more importantly? Knows how to make you feel it, too.
Go see em the next time you can. And if you're a promoter reading this? Book em. Serious Black? Iunno. It's some serious alchemy though.
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