Monday, June 13, 2011

Alessi's Ark Floats into J-Ward

It makes me happy that we now have a neighborhood record store in Jackson Ward.

When Steady Sounds opened three blocks from my house last year,it was a big deal. I bought loads of Christmas presents there. I went to a Joanna Newsome listening party there.

And tonight I went to my first live performance there. Playing first was local favorite son Jonathan Vassar doing a short but heartfelt set.

Beginning, he said, "Hi, I'm Jonathan Vassar for those of you who don't know me. Karen does."

And I do, but I always enjoy hearing him sing and play. Today he was standing in the 5:00 sunlight in front of four paintings of the Beatles ($1,000, marked SOLD) doing a too short set.

Between songs, the headliner Alessi called out, "Do you have CDs?" making it clear that she was already a fan three songs in.

After Jonathan came Alessi's Ark, the project of Londoner Alessi Laurent-Marke and the reason for the show today.

Only 21, willowy and with a breathy voice and engaging manner, she began her set by moving closer to the small audience and then having us introduce ourselves.

She pronounced my name so much more beautifully than I can.

She and her parents had bought pizza for the crowd ("The biggest pizzas in the world!" she said with wonder) and offered it around.

Throughout her set, people wandered in, and most lingered at least for a bit to listen. One guy came in to buy albums, got sucked in by her singing and ended up buying one of her CDs as well.

She thanked each person mid-set as they came in.

She complimented Jonathan in the classically British way ("Brilliant!") and asked where he grew up. I can see where Jonathan's Americana sound would be catnip to a Brit folkie.

She got hot performing in her long sundress and shed her flip-flops and seemed worried about playing too long, ending with "Robot" to enthusiastic applause.

Talking to Alessi afterwards, she said she got inspired to make music when her Mum gave her Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners," an album that came out nineteen years before she was born.

Because she had seemed shy onstage, I suspected she might have some stage fright issues, which she confirmed. "I always have to run to the bathroom before I go on," she explained.

Come to think of it, as soon as Jonathan had started his last song, she had disappeared upstairs so that when he mentioned her, she was absent. The sacrifices made for art.

But once singing, there was no sound of nervousness in her voice, only a whimsical musicality as she sang of time travel and freckles as constellations.

How wonderful to have a barefoot British songbird mesmerize in a Jackson Ward record store on a random Monday afternoon. Thank you, Steady Sounds.

Is this a great neighborhood or what?


  1. Sad: I forgot about this show, and somehow J. didn't mention the fact that he even played a show on Monday night when he got home

    Awesome: I found out all about it through your blog!

  2. Oh no! I know you would have enjoyed her voice and with every song J. played, she became a bigger fan of his.

    It was a shame more people didn't get to enjoy such a lovely late afternoon of music.

    So glad I can keep you informed of your beloved's whereabouts!