A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending what I would consider to be an indie music enthusiast’s dream: a Seattle Living Room Show featuring local Roots/Americana powerhouse Bradford Loomis and nationally touring Bayou Soul Singer/Songwriter, Marc Broussard. The event took place on a stormy Seattle evening at the inconspicuously located Piranha Shop – a SoDo art gallery that has become one of Seattle’s best-kept-secret spaces. Arriving at the venue felt very much like attending one of Seattle’s notorious prohibition-era speakeasies – the windows in the surrounding shops were dark, and only a very small sign announcing the shop’s name and a long line of umbrella wielding concertgoers kept me from passing it by.
Once inside, however, I was greeted with the warmth and familiarity that accompanies Carrie and Kristen Watt and the Seattle Living Room Shows wherever they go – smiling familiar faces, chairs waiting to be filled, and a soft light that revealed tall walls covered with sparkling, meticulously graffitied canvases. After hugging the usual suspects, I took a lap around the room. I was delighted to find a full bar in back, sound engineer Ben DeVore gearing up his pre-show music, and the first man of the evening, Bradford Loomis, putting the finishing touches on his merch table.
After mingling for a bit, I took a seat and waited for the long line of attendees to enter the room. One by one they filtered in, filled their glasses, and began chatting about the spectacle they were about to witness. Before long there was barely enough room to move, and the Seattle Living Room Shows’ collaborator, the Melodic Caring Project – a local 501(c)3 non-profit that broadcasts live music to hospitalized children living with serious illness – kicked off the evening by introducing us to the five special kids who would be joining us via live broadcast for the night’s festivities. The audience cheered in unison as the Melodic Caring Project’s cofounder, Levi Ware, named off each special young guest.
By the time one of my favorite local musicians (and people, for that matter), Bradford Loomis, took the stage, the air in the room was electric with excitement. Brad is one of those people who you can meet for the first time and instantly feel like you’ve known for your entire life. Not surprisingly, his music is the same way. Each of his tunes is chock-full of insightful lyrics that seem to transport the listener to a simpler, better time with more dust and fewer iPhones. His music is also delivered with what I would characterize as a roaring joviality – by his second song he had already broken two strings and apologetically stated, “That’s the problem with looking like a caveman – I also feel like I have to play like one. I have an image to uphold,” which he cavalierly demonstrated, to the audience’s delight, by taking a swig from his flask.
Though I had already heard Brad play on quite a few occasions, the evening’s show marked my first time hearing him perform with his latest coconspirators, Seattle singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Beth Whitney; and fiddle player, Jessie Scott. During the course of the set, I was impressed not only with the new depth the two musicians brought to the songs – notably, four-part harmony and dense, thundering accelerandos – but also with the way they complemented both the style of Brad’s unmistakably charismatic upright bass player, Aaron Fishburn, as well as Brad’s preexisting sound.
By the end of Brad’s set, not a single seat in the house remained filled; strangers were dancing and laughing with each other, and the sleepy Sunday crowd that had somewhat timidly walked through the door an hour before was nowhere to be found. Managing to put words to the comradery that had enveloped the room, Brad offered, “I love what the Seattle Living Room Shows and Melodic Caring Project do for people –because it’s about community. And especially when you’re going through something, I think you need that community.”
As Brad’s set came to a close, Kristen took the stage to make sure everyone knew that the evening’s festivities were far from over – in just 15 minutes Marc Broussard would be gracing the stage with 90-minutes of Bayou infused, big bearded soul. As I rose from my seat to wander a bit, I couldn’t help but notice how many Seattle Living Room Show veterans were in the room – to my left I saw two fantastic musicians, Jenn Grinels and Sarah Gerritsen, and behind me I saw a crowd already beginning to form around Kris Orlowski. Yet again, my suspicion of the symbiotic nature of Seattle’s music community was confirmed.
Marc Broussard’s set began, I believe, just as one might suspect: with nearly deafening cheers from the crowd and a clearly audible “I LOVE YOU, MARC!!!” or two. After the first few bars of the first song, it became clear that I was quite possibly the only person in the room who did not know the words. While it’s a bit surprising that I had never knowingly heard Marc’s music prior to when he opened his mouth that evening, I was very happy that I got to experience his sultry mix of funk, blues, R&B, rock, and pop for the first time in a live setting.
To provide a little background information on this impressive musician, Marc is a singer/songwriter from Louisiana who began performing with his father, Louisiana Hall of Fame guitarist Ted Broussard, when he was only five years old. Since that time he has played with several bands, launched his solo career, and released a great deal of recorded material – including a hand full of singles, three EPs, five full-length albums, and one live album.
As I came to find out as the evening progressed, he is not only a notably skilled guitarist, singer, songwriter and recording artist; he is also an impressive performer. While most musicians who play a few-hundred shows per year are bound to look comfortable when they take the stage, Marc has a kind of relaxed, energetic stage presence that I don’t often see. When he got onstage and picked up his dad’s cherry red ’78 335 Gibson hollow body, it was clear that he was exactly where he belonged. Although there were hundreds of audience members cheering, clapping, and high-fiving each other fewer than 5 feet away from his mic stand, Marc and his band – comprised of bass, drums, and backup vocals – performed as though they were sitting on Marc’s front porch in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Throughout his set, Marc’s songs clearly reflected his southern roots – not only in his prevalent soul influences, his blues-infused walking bass lines, his gruff, guttural melodies, and his impressive vocal flourishes; but also in his chosen subject matter – with motifs such as family, fishing, wandering, and coming of age. During the course of the evening, Marc told the audience several stories about what it was like to grow up in Louisiana – including an account of losing his Grandma, the “matriarch” of his family, shortly before Hurricane Isaac.
At some point during the course of Marc’s time onstage, I realized that, for once, I was not analyzing the technical elements of the performance I was watching. There simply weren’t any mistakes, or any awkward pauses between songs, to pull me out of the performance. Upon having this realization, I looked around and noticed that it seemed like everyone else in the audience, including Marc, was feeling the same way. As Marc put it, “I’ve played this town a whole bunch of times, but this time it feels like we’re part of something different. And I gotta thank Carrie and Kristen for making this happen.”
Music enthusiasts, we have all been to great shows. We know when we are witnessing a performance that is one-of-a-kind. It has to do with so many components – the venue, the producers, the performers, the audience, the sound engineer, the equipment, even the day of the week and the weather. But when all of those components come together, there are few experiences as powerful. Yet again I found myself leaving a Seattle Living Room Show with my head buzzing – and not from the wine. Thanks to Carrie, Kristen, the SLRS staff and volunteers, the Melodic Caring Project, and of course Bradford Loomis and Marc Broussard for making the night a very memorable one. If you didn’t make it to the show, we hope to see you next time.
Cheers and thanks for reading.