The Listening Room celebrated its two year anniversary with another set of performances showing off why it’s one of the best music showcases in Richmond. Arriving a bit early, I found it to be already packed. Since this is the last Listening Room for two months (the Firehouse Theatre is undergoing renovations), there was definitely something special to be had this evening.
First up was Nelly Kate, who I had heard before but never got the chance to see live. From the moment she walked through the crowd banging sticks together and singing in a haunting voice, she had me hooked. She used a loop machine to layer voice during her songs (which she admitted was easier for her when she travels to play) and I found myself mesmerized by her lovely voice and her dense musical sound.
Nelly Kate – Minds Corners
Nelly Kate – Heart Prints
Next up was the duo of Bonnie Staley (of the Girtles) and Cliff Boyd (of Sports Bar), who were joined by backup singers Maya and Julie and played a selection of each other’s songs. As they played, I was taken back to an era of radio jingles and shimmering guitars as they played upbeat, melodic songs with a lot of fun vocals. The highlight of the set was “Samby,” a song written partly by Staley and partly by the Beach Boys. They had a very 1950s-sounding vibe to them but somehow it all fit.
Finally, James Wallace ended the evening with a collection of vintage alt-country songs that entertained and captivated with its poppy flavors.
I’m sad that the Listening Room will be on hiatus for two months after such an amazing anniversary celebration. That just means February’s show will have to pull out all the stops to set the stage for Year Three.