There is something magical and amazing about watching live music. Yes, there can be bad live music, I don’t dispute that it’s everywhere, and it’s disappointing when I’m subjected to it. No, I’m talking about that proficient musician or group who has it together, has put in the practice and displays enthusiasm in what they’re doing. Those unique few who bring an atmosphere altering mood to the room. You’ve felt it – when that vibration runs through the crowd and everyone is catching it – a spell has been cast and the entire audience falls under their thrall. The vibe is right, and a show suddenly becomes an experience.
I’ve been blessed to have been witness to a few of those moments and looking back I realize that what truly sealed the deal for me each and every time was that I got to meet the artist after. Never was it one of those “meet and greet’ setups after the show, it was more of an “accost the artist as they chat with the crowd at their merchandise table” thing. But less creepy.
My favorite recent show was November 10, 2014 at the Larimer Lounge in Denver. I’ve played this stage myself a few times. It’s a small low ceilinged space that lacks anything that could be accused of being glamorous. The signage is poor and at first it feels like you just need to know where the discretely marked building is along the road. A long bar graces the left wall of the front room and through a door to the back is the standing room only 200 person capacity room with a 3 foot high stage in the back corner. The walls are lined with posters for upcoming shows and, in general, it seems an unlikely place for magic. But that’s exactly what happened that night.
The act was SOHN: not many Denver-ites have heard of him yet which I find astounding and, quite frankly, lucky for me. His album Tremors came out last year and it set my soul on fire. The first song I ever heard by him was Bloodflows. I set it on repeat and watched the goosebumps rise on my arms through the first five playbacks. Genius. In fact my one and only cover that I have recorded on youtube is Bloodflows. You can watch it here:
With an electronic sound, SOHN is a DJ, keyboardist, and vocalist. His set up on stage was a dizzying display of pedals and switches as well as two other musicians alternating on keyboards, drums, and guitar. Being me, I was there early and was standing in the front row just to SOHN’s left. I saw it all.
When you listen to SOHN’s album it is a complicated construction of electronica sounds blended with vocals, many of which have effects put on them. It has a thoroughly produced sound and not one easily achieved live, so I was curious to see how he would pull it off. Flawlessly is how he did it. He navigated the switches and pedals, knobs, buttons and keys fluidly and effortlessly. He could have been flying the USS Enterprise for all I knew but his motions were smooth and practiced. His voice, often soaring to an angelic falsetto, never faltered and was as bang on as a tuned vocal on a produced track. I literally had tears on my cheeks as he played Bloodflows. His delivery was sublime and the thrill of hearing “that song” live, the one that hooked you in the first place, well, it was awesome. The pacing of the show was superb, starting with his slower numbers and building up to his faster paced songs. We were under his spell as he played his latest released single on his album Artifice. Song after song, practiced perfection, it was a sight to see.
And then it was over. A last bow, an encore, then stage emptied and the lights turned on. I stood there still, as the room emptied out into the bar, unwilling to end the experience. My friends and I lingered, nursing our IPAs, and hoping he would make an appearance. We wandered over to the merchandise table and spoke with a man who turned out to be SOHNs tour manager. We learned that SOHN had just flown in hours before, was very tired, and would unlikely be coming out to say hi.
A crushing disappointment filled my heart. It’s geeky, I know, but I already had my physical album Secret Music in hand so I had brought a signed copy to give to SOHN. I decided to give it to his tour manager instead who happily accepted it and assured me SOHN would get it. Whether he did or not I have no idea, but it was worth a try.
So we stayed to finish our beers and not 3 minutes later I turned and saw him standing by the stage. All in black and wearing his signature hoodie and toque, SOHN stood talking to a lady in the empty theater. I found myself making a line of one as I waited for my opportunity to talk to him.
I admit I don’t remember what I said or didn’t say. I believe I mentioned my CD. I’m sure I told him he was amazing and said all the usual stuff that one gushes out when they meet someone they greatly admire. He answered in a quiet and kind beautiful british accent; with polite thank you’s and appreciative words. We posed for a few pictures, only one of which turned out anywhere to my satisfaction, and it was over. I was elated. The night had easily climbed into my top 5 nights ever and I felt happy and sparkly all over.
I feel I met a genius that night. I watched an exceptional person who has clearly, not only created some beautiful songs but, has the perseverance and diligence to flawlessly replicate them again and again to the delight of many. I can imagine the countless hours of practice required to do what I saw that evening and I’m inspired. SOHN showed me what dedication looks like; he demonstrated how talent, perseverance, and a clear love of music can captivate an audience. He motivated me to follow my dream and create amazing music.
I want to make magic too.