It was a hot summer night when we kicked off Showcase #216, but inside the TapHouse, there was a cool blast of sound waves emanating from the stage! The crowd filled the better part of the venue, and as some of the dinner crowd left, more folks filed in to see what was cookin’ on the stage. James Lester with special guest Tom Mayer (from Barrelhouse) gave a harmonica infused dose of sweet blues, then Matt Manion gave a great set of folk and rock. And to keeping it all rolling along, VOCAL’s guest MC for the evening, Louis Millhouse, kicked off the music and introduced our artists.
What would great music be, without a great venue to set the atmosphere? Join VOCAL at Richbrau’s TapHouse each month for the perfect environment to experience freshly prepared meals, fine crafted micro-brew beverages and well crafted songwriting. You’ll find us at 1212 East Cary Street in Shockoe Slip every third Monday of the month.
Louis’s song ‘Marathon’ was a great way to begin the evening and a sampling from his showcase appearance scheduled for later this year. With a sweet acoustic rhythm and the warm, sandy imagery of living in the Keys with a drink in hand, Louis had the crowd swinging in the breeze of his tropical rhythm. After warming up the crowd with this tropical excursion, Louis introduced the first performer.
James Lester wasted no time getting the crowd worked up as he kicked off his set with ‘I Like Your Love’, a bluesy number that gets feet to stompin’ and heads-a-boppin’. Alternating between his own songs and the songs of his guest, Tom Mayer, James turned the microphone over for the next song ‘Home Cooking’, a tune featuring Tom’s vocals and harmonica. Throughout the set, Tom’s harmonica was present on each song and what a treat it was for the ears! Whether on James’ songs such as ‘Lame Pony Blues’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’ or Tom’s songs ‘The Night is Closing In’ and ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ the duo put on quite a fine sampling of guitar based blues, spiced up with a heavy dose of hot harmonica licks. James gave quite a performance on the fretboard alternating between strumming and finger-style playing, with each song leaving your ears begging for more. Tom really let it rip on ‘Lame Pony Blues’ where he laid down a harmonica solo that nearly set the roof on fire! Lyrically, the duo served some low-down blues such as ‘The Night is Closing In’ as well as some comic relief with the songs ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’. VOCAL thanks James and Tom for bringing their blues skills to the showcase stage. Look out for the next showcase performance from this duo. You can also keep up with them on the web at www.myspace.com/jameslesterblue and www.myspace.com/barrelhouserva .
When the first set was over, it seemed a shame for the music to end, but there was no reason to worry about that with the evening’s featured performer Matt Manion. Sharing his style of acoustic music, Matt carried the audience through an evening of folk and rock songs that used many themes including the difficulties of work life and the thoughts of personal reflection, wrapped up in lyrics that were sometimes somber, sometimes humorous and sometimes poetic, but always thoughtful. Starting off with a blend of humor and maybe horror, ‘The Royal Roach Hotel’ was Matt’s telling of a not-so-wonderful stay while working in the oil fields of Louisianna. Keeping on the theme of rough work experiences, ‘Power Play’, had a bit of a Punk feel to the rhythm, which served the lyrics well as the song addresses the frustration that can exist in some work environments. ‘Forget Yourself’ was a very reflective song with an easy, calming melody.
Matt had surprises in store for the audience as he called John Ellis to the stage to accompany with lead electric guitar on ‘Losin’ My Hair’, a humorous, but somewhat introspective song about one of life’s struggles. Next Matt brought Gary Shaver to the stage on clarinet and Norman Roscher on keyboard along with John Ellis on lead guitar to add ambience to his poetic and inspiring ‘O Rolling Sea’. Norman’s keyboard work added a nice ambience to the song, which evoked images of the ocean waves that Matt used in his recorded version. With Gary on the clarinet, the song had more depth thanks to the wonderful tone of his instrument and the delicate, swelling runs he used to accentuate the mood of the song. Thanks to Matt and his guest performers for providing a unique interpretation of a very unique song.
Matt finished up his set with a few more songs including one that has a 50’s Doo-Wop feel to my ears, with lyrics about strength in love ‘Man’s Man’, and a great song for any Matt Manion performance ‘Don’t Need to Be Perfect’. Thanks to Matt for a great set of creative, original musical variety.
VOCAL would not be the great organization that it is without a great group of volunteers helping out. Thanks to Matt Manion for providing the sound system for the evening and to John Ellis and Matthew Costello for sharing soundman duties. Larry Cody is kind enough to provide table tent-cards for each performance to inform our listeners about the evening’s performers. Matthew Costello also keeps our website up to date and handles most of our photography work. But it would all be for naught, without an audience to perform for, so thanks to all who show up or otherwise support our songwriters. We’ll see you next month!