One of the absolute treats of a stripped down, do-it-yourself show is that a musician cannot hide behind bright lights, over-processed distortion, or the skills of other musicians. One mic. One voice. One presence. Touring artists Liz Isenberg and Vio/Miré, and Phoenix-based artists Courier New and Naked For Now spent two hours last night wooing a handful of people at the Trunk Space with a veritable time machine of instruments. The small turnout and chummy atmosphere made it easy for the crowd to pull up chairs close to the small stage or sit on the ground with knees drawn up as each act lined up front and center.
Madi Hibbard of Naked For Now got things rolling at 8:30 with a 15-minute jaunt. Armed only with a ukulele, Hibbard, like the rest of the solo musicians, used her voice as much as her stringed tool to deliver her brand of folk. With a small frame and unassuming disposition, Hibbard's booming voice came as a bit of a shock when she belted out lyrics to her songs, which included cheerful musings like, "You will find that loving me is easy as pie." She fumbled through one of her newer songs that she said had just been finished, but improvised well enough to get a giggle out of the crowd. She quickly rushed off stage to find her place in the audience, eager to catch Isenberg's set.
Rhode Island native Brendan Glasson, also known as Vio/Miré, changed the pace with more wistful words and a narrative intonation. Starting first with an acoustic guitar, "Shrinking Coasts" saw Glasson's voice arc with his lyrics in a peppier tone. He later employed the use of a pump organ, this rickety black box from 1904, to weave landscapes that were both eerie and dreamy all at once. With a set that lasted around 30 minutes, Glasson shared exchanges with the crowd and took time to explain how the pump organ works.
With set changes taking only 10 minutes or so, Isenberg jumped into her set at 9:40 with more playful overtures as her fingers danced over piano keys. "I Loved Him, I'll Leave Him," embodied her style of music that was riddled with relentless rants, mixed in with whimpers and wails. Although more erratic than the groups before her, Isenberg still managed to sound sweet as she sung, "I tried to break your fingers, I squeezed them real hard," in "Hey I'm Drowning." Also wrapping up after just 30 minutes of playing, she was gracious to the fans who stuck it out through her set and thought back fondly to her first impression of Phoenix and Trunk Space the first time she played the venue.
The wild card of the lineup ended up being mad man Christian Filardo, who's fledgling project, Courier New, utilized the most interesting instrument of the night: a variable speed changer. "It's a cassette recorder that changes cassette speed when triggered with a foot peddle," Filardo explained. Tres chic. He picked up the contraption in a thrift store up in Flagstaff about six months ago and created this incarnation specifically around the VSC. Filardo ended up foregoing the stage and pulled up a chair within the crowd, removing his shoes and socks. As he sat there, adjusting to his guitar, he baited the remaining crowd to get in tight. Filardo sings over his acoustic and uses his feet to trigger what sound like obscure motivational speeches on cassette tapes. He did more than sing, however -- he outright yelled at the top of his lungs. A little jarring after you just invited me to get close, sir. A little strange, but kind of cool.
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Last Night: Liz Isenberg, Vio/Miré, Courier New and Naked For Now at The Trunk Space
The Crowd: Downtown Denizens
Overheard in the Crowd: "Ooh, an intimate show."
Personal Bias: Hooray for cassette decks!