On Crescent Ballroom’s second-floor balcony, it was hard to find a seat on Wednesday night. Some patrons stood in the crowded back corner; others came an hour early to hold down a table.
The balcony was busy because of "Wednesday Wednesday," a new free weekly songwriter showcase that might be the best networking opportunity in the Valley for local up-and-coming musicians.
Each week, "Wednesday Wednesday" features six to eight local musicians performing 15 minutes of stripped-down songs each. The whole series is curated, created, and emceed by Jesse Teer of local indie-folk group The Senators.
The first artist last week was Phoenix soul duo Tindal Muzic. As Tindal started to strum the opening chords of the acoustic guitar, the sound cut in and out. Tindal turned to Teer, who was also running the sound mixer, wondering whether or not to power through the sound issues.
“Just keep going,” he said nonchalantly. “We’ll figure it out.”
And that was the motif of the evening: embracing the authenticity and unpredictability of songwriting. Better yet, the artists got to share that art transparently with other musicians.
“It's what's nice about that space,” said Raquel Denis, a singer-songwriter who played third on the lineup on Wednesday, “You're like, ‘Oh, I'm not alone, and there are people who are doing this too.’”
Teer said he first had the idea to start the event because of a similar showcase at Los Angeles’ Hotel Cafe called "Monday Monday," which Teer and The Senators had performed at a few times. "Monday Monday" was created by Joel Eckels, who gave Teer the green light to run with the idea in Phoenix. Teer immediately called Charlie Levy, the owner of Crescent Ballroom.
“Here, you just see a bunch of different artists during 15-minute sets, and that's different and fun,” Levy said. “I really like that Jesse's bringing out just such an array of different artists, and different styles of music are being played.”
Admittedly, at first, Teer wondered whether or not the Valley had enough demand to sustain a weekly event like Los Angeles does, but "Wednesday Wednesday" is already booked out for the next month and a half.
“I think there are way more folks out there than I realized,” Teer said. “And as I'm booking this out, we're trying to make it really diverse in terms of genre, in terms of voice and perspective. There are so many pockets of music and genres that I've learned about.”
The musical range is one of the first things any attendee will notice. Last week featured everything from Leewater, an R&B singer-songwriter, to Southwestern alt-country music performed by TIO, a new project from Phoenix artist David Marquez.
“I think that it’s really special for people in the Valley who are music lovers and music-goers to have access to a diverse bill of artists,” said Denis.
The setting was perfect for peeled-back performances. String lights dangle above and lit candles are spread behind the performers. The audience completely bought into the stripped sound, too. When Dirt Rhodes, a country gospel singer from the Navajo Nation, took the stage, he asked the crowd to cheer if they wanted “fast music” or “more sad shit.”
Sad shit won the tally by a good margin.
Both Levy and Teer said they plan to keep this tradition alive in the Phoenix music scene for years to come, with the latter noting that the feeling of community the showcase offers is everything for an artist.
“I think for most people, it's like a bolt of lightning when that moment happens where everyone's together in the same place,” Teer said. “And personally speaking, that's why we do it. That's why we perform and play.”
Leewater, who closed out the night, brought that moment out of the fans on the balcony. Because his guitarist couldn’t make it, Leewater performed completely a cappella, sharing a call and response hook with the crowd on his second song.
“I think those are like the best moments of a showcase like this,” said Teer. “I'm sad the guitarist couldn't make it, but at the end of the day, like, hell, that was pretty magical right there.”