The Barron's venue can feel dark and enclosed, but Music is Love created a soothing tavern that wrapped us in a cloak of joy and good-hearted spirits. We all huddled on the staircase and spread our jackets as around a campfire.
The gig opened with Hamish James Hawk. Peacefully, he walked in with his guitar. He took a look at us with limpid eyes and started. In a translucent voice, we sang about change, confusion and identity. It was an impersonation of the remains of our adolescent questionings. Hamish implied it was still acceptable to feel misunderstood in "Unlucky, Unlikely." Thus, his words made me feel both trapped and hopeful. He introduced his new song as the "only negative one" he's written about someone. Surely he’s the sweetest critic I've ever heard, and I smiled at his concluding question, "Was it too brutal?"
By the end, Hamish was accompanied by Alex on another guitar, and Anna’s enchanting voice. The addition of dryer strings made the songs more upbeat and created a nice contrast with our artist’s dreamy voice. Anna sang high-pitched, wearing a golden paper crown. She reminded me of Zooey Deschanel’s innocence from the band She&Him. We were invited to join in twice; first, in the traditional thumping and clapping, but later by shouting "FUCK UP" into a recurring line. It seemed out of place after the act’s peacefulness, but we were efficient. Hamish and his friends were a sweet and personal opening to the showcase.
The stage cleared up, the aisles did not. A line had formed in the dark. Ziji Jiao appeared in a velvet dress holding an Er'hu, a Chinese violin. It consists of strings attached to a wooden block at the bottom. It has a minimalistic and sophisticated look to it. Ziji only started this string instrument two years ago. She told me it was considered the hardest string instrument in China. Her sound compelled us into a silent meditation in a snap, when we'd been swearing in unison for the previous act. She demonstrated the violin's various abilities from a rapid Pissarro to a sour, lamenting melody. I was mostly shaken by Ziji’s intimacy; she rocked to her sounds and held the violin with affection. After she’d hypnotized us, she bowed with a smile, and silently left.
"I love playing in a large group. It's a way to mingle and get a break from work." Katherine was referring to the Big Band. I figured "Big" was a self-motivating tag until saxos, keyboards, two sets of drums, trumpets and guitars all squeezed into our feeble Barron. No breather, they opened with In the Mood, and we had to be. Orchestras are rarely as close to their audience; we had a first-class experience. It did not take long for heads to bop, feet to tap, or lips to sing along "La Bamba"; Naturally, we smiled like children at a circus. If the dancing invitation to the Encore had come a few seconds later, the wait would have been too long. At those words, we all popped up and swung together; the moment we were dreaming of, a happy ending to our night.