And it just takes a little listening and vulnerability to discover it. (Beer and live music bring it out a little faster.)
By Katelyn Skye Bennett
Twinkly lights softly illuminated the ornate pillars and gold-rimmed fireplace in the Colvin House. Groups of friends settled into the front room, making the grandiose venue feel cozy as they prepared for a night of live music.
Aaron James, a Memphis-based musician who kicked off the show, talked about listening to other people’s perspectives, saying that this would lead to more understanding in the world. His was the first of three acoustic sets at a Sofar Sounds event in Edgewater, Chicago, on Friday, September 26.
“Here I am, a man of caucasian descent, playing acoustic guitar, singing songs about relationships that have gone awry. It’s not that original…but everyone has something special,” Aaron James told the crowd, a group of mostly 20-something year olds seated on couches and the floor in the restored beachfront mansion.
He jabbered about loneliness while struggling to keep time or sing into the mic, the audience chuckling at his monologues and his message carrying throughout the night.
He was followed by Fury, a conscious hip-hop artist from Chicago’s Westside who said she was 90s like Queen Latifah. Following up on Aaron James’ message of having an open heart, Fury gave the crowd a heads up about her music: “Oh yeah she’s vulnerable, but she might cut me,” she said in the third person. “Fair warning.”
Truthfully, she was cheerful and relatable. Her hot pink t-shirt and wide smile added to her charm. Fury rapped about finding home, the indecision in Tinder relationships, and barriers facing Black kids, inviting the audience to participate with her in the hooks. A guitarist backed her up in lieu of a full band, per the evening’s stripped-down vibe.
As she wrapped up her performance, Fury gave tribute to Sofar Sounds and the host. She called the venue “super regal,” joking that she had drunk her beer with her pinky out and suggesting that everyone else do the same.
The audience sipped alcohol and chatted between sets, getting to know each other and answering an ice breaker question about their next travel location. The emcee was heading to Hawaii. After ten or fifteen minutes of this, the final act took the stage.
Van Isaacson and his band performed, bringing Americana music into the evening’s mix. “It’s so good to be up here. I feel that most of being a musician is freaking out all day,” Van said as he introduced his music, which he and the band performed beautifully. On that intimate stage in Chicago, they could shine.
Van’s guitar pickup had broken upon arrival, but Aaron James shared his acoustic with the band. Perhaps it was the bond that live music brought to the room or the desire of the audience to build genuine connections with each other, but the atmosphere was one of sharing and goodwill.
Van’s last song, titled “Here,” captured his hometown in Wisconsin. He is headed up to the woods of Minnesota to record it this week. Friday night’s audience was also the first to hear his song “Press Into Me,” which involved high harmonies, a shaker and the bass drum, and an electric guitar solo.
While many were seeking to belong and feel at home, the booze and tunes allowed them to meet others who might feel the same and gave them an opportunity to listen and be vulnerable in that space as well.