I'm not familiar with Slow Runner, the band from which Michael Flynn hails. Checking their website, it looks like that group is no longer operating -- it appears to have been taken over by spammers with tips on how to secure a bail bond or rent LED lighting. The page is titled "We'll lend a hand towards the fruition of your success." Which serves as a nice metaphor for the kind of music I heard here tonight.
Digging further, it looks like they called an extended hiatus a few years back. Regardless, if the project was as a whole half as effective as Flynn is on his own then it must have been a hella experience seeing them in concert.
I should amend that, as Flynn wasn't by himself for this show -- he was joined by Kris Gruen, an Americana slash Folk singer from out of Worcester, Vermont. For half a minute after learning Gruen's hometown, I wondered if he knows Tony Brown of the Duende Project. But it turns out that Brown lives in the Massachusetts Worcester. Why there are two towns named Worcester in states that close together is beyond me. Then I got to thinking about which of the two towns spawned Worcester Sauce, but it turns out that the sauce originates from Worcester in England. So now I'm completely confused. Maybe the two towns over here were spawned from immigrants who couldn't agree on where to put the place.
The more I think about this the more I realize I haven't taken my ADHD meds this morning.. And, well.. Here we are.
This was an interesting performance not because these two artists are singular talents in their own right (though, they are), but out of the unique arrangement where they mostly took turns playing songs while the other listened. You got the sense that the two are deep fans of each others work, and watching that sort of mutual appreciation society unfold on a stage lends a sweetly intimate tone to the evening.
Gruen summoned the spirit of Cat Stevens' Tea to the Tillerman to Flynn channeling Billy Joel on Cold Spring Harbor. Think.. James Taylor paired with early, pre-flamboyance Elton John. Or more recently? Jude sitting down for a session with Ben Folds. Regardless of the references, both of these men are consummate songwriters with impressive vocal abilities. This show wasn't half as well attended as it should have been -- Norfolk, you missed the fuck out on this. Those of us who made the journey came away with the sense that we had witnessed something truly special.
There was a point where.. I'm not sure of his name, but he tends bar for the venue.. This guy stepped in with a violin and improvised during one of Gruen's numbers. It was impressive, and I know that guy woke up with a big ass smile on his face today.
. . .
Speaking of vocals, Jarvis Griffin is probably the most gifted singer performing regularly in the city right now. That may sound like a tall order, but I think it holds true. Griffin currently roosts with the prog/funk band Paper Aliens -- a group I've shot on film but have yet to develop, that has steadily been appearing on bills with great frequency lately. With a set that runs a gamut from soul to funk to pure pop genius, backed ably by fellow Alien, Nate Levine -- Griffin shocks and awes. He took, if I recall correctly, second place in last month's Lyrical Singer Songwriter Contest at O'Connors. This man is a stunning talent, who I wouldn't be surprised to popping up next to Pharrell or Missy Elliot in far-off future conversations about great musicians born of our region.
. . .
Jessica Scheck recalls early Dar Williams to my ear. Or a gentler Wolf Alice. Daughter. Maybe even a bit of Gillian Welch. She was featured recently as a contestant in the aforementioned songwriting contest, where she struggled against technical difficulties that likely robbed her of placing higher, bravely delivering a fine performance. Armed with nothing more than a mandolin and a starlit voice, this is an artist who who seems to be performing from a deep well of experience. Not all of them good. But who seems to have eked out a treacherous a path through the pathos to arrive at the peace of a storyteller. Scheck is an endearing artist well worth paying attention to.
Next up from LAVA Presents is Peelander-Z, Superfang, and Single-Use Plastic at Charlie's on the 8th. Click here for info.
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Michael Flynn & Kris Gruen
Charleston / Vermont. Americana / Indie Folk.
Jarvis Griffin with Nate Levine
Norfolk. Acoustic Soul.
Norfolk. Indie Folk.