It was as if I were in London and all I had to do was cross the East River via the L train.
Last night, at around 7:45, I texted my friend Sheila to see if she wanted to grab a spontaneous drink in the ‘hood. I met Sheila, a Brit, through Ellie, actually, and then she coincidentally stayed in my place while I was in London. (Remember Ellie’s dinner with my ‘rents? She was there!) She now lives in her own pad nearby, and we’ve been trying to get together for a few weeks.
She responded by saying she was in Williamsburg with a friend to see a gig. “Next week?” she proposed. Then I asked her about said gig and cheekily invited myself to join them.
“Of course you can crash!” she exclaimed.
So while many of my brethren were home enjoying apples and honey for the first night of Rosh Hashanah (I know, I know. But I will go sweetly into the New Year tomorrow. Promise!) I spontaneously went off to the B to the K-L-Y-N for some sweet treats of a different kind: live music.
I didn’t know much about the artist — Laura Mvula — other than, as Sheila put it, she’s an “English singer” with an “amazing voice.” Plus, tickets were just $20 and it wasn’t sold out. In fact, I even bought my ticket at the box office! How so very 1994 of me, right? Best part? No fees!
We arrived just as Laura was starting and despite it not being sold out, it was a packed house. Thankfully, the show was at the super intimate Music Hall of Williamsburg, which is the shiny, new-ish sister spot to Bowery Ballroom in the city. So while the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder, there still wasn’t a bad spot in the house. (I also had a literal leg-up with the 5-inch wedges I was wearing, so my sight line was fairly free. My burning bunions, on the other hand, were a different story.)
Without going all music critic on you, Laura really was, as Sheila put it in a word: Amazing. Her voice is unwavering and crystallized, yet super strong and soulful. I’m talking Makes-The-Hair-On-Your-Arm-Stand-Up soulful. Whether it was an upbeat song with a reggaeton beat, or acoustic-style with the piano, she got–and deserved–your full attention. I’m wary of saying she’s reminiscent of anyone like, say, Amy Winehouse or Adele, just because as an artist myself, I know how much it sucks to be compared to your contemporaries. Everyone wants to be unique, right? But I know why we do it. (And I say “we” because an editor for the past 10 years, I’m guilty of the “If you like X try Y” formula. ) It gives people a sense of likeness, which makes it easier to trust; to be convinced. Essentially, it’s Pandora’s bread and butter. Go on, though. Decide for yourself by watching NPR’s awesome Tiny Desk Concert:
I’ll admit, I had an extra soft spot for Laura because she’s a Brit and so charmingly spoke to the audience in her Birmingham accent. She was humble, as Brits are, thanking all the people crammed into this venue, and coyly speaking about her pedicure-less toes and her TopShop shoes. She chatted about first loves and broken hearts, and covered “One Love” by Bob Marley and “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson.
I kept flashing back to that night in London when I saw American folk crooners The Avett Bros., and how the show felt so warm and fuzzy because it connected me back here, while also providing a sense of newness, which I so often crave. This was, essentially, the flip.
Everyone sang along and clapped and shouted ’til the lights went on, waking me up and reminding me, once again, of where I was, and also where I’ve been.
As we say on Rosh Hashanah, L’Shana Tova! May this next year be as sweet as the last.