Ernie Halter, Joe Firstman, and the Kin – Live by Guest Blogger, Kate Leiss
You know you’ve made it big time when strangers are asking to be a guest blogger on your site. Kate Leiss is a passionate gal that is music obsessed like me. For that, she obviously is awesome. A prolific writer that felt moved by this show particular show, she wanted to sound off on it. Kate, welcome to RadioPotato! -Allison
It’s not much of a secret that, for me, music is the pulse of life. I love music and thrive off of live performances. Most recently, I caught a show at Jammin’ Java, a coffee shop/concert venue located in Vienna, VA. I was there primarily to see Ernie Halter, a longtime favorite of mine and the roots of my musical family tree. I was vaguely familiar with the other two performers on the bill and was looking forward to hearing their sets. I was not disappointed.
The show began as Ernie Halter walked out on stage and slid onto the piano bench. He immediately launched into “Something’s Come Over Me”, a song whose lyrics were dripping with sensuality and a tone derived from old soul singers like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Once he opened up the floor to song requests, his stage small-talk was like a live-action autobiography. At times adolescent, he revealed his perpetual enjoyment of the phrase “That’s what she said”, recounting examples of when he had put it to use.
Ultimately, he conceded to more mature recollections, from the simple story of a lyrical affirmation to a mild-mannered ode of appreciation to his fans for allowing him to do what he loves and make a living off of it. His comfort on the stage and with the audience was wholly apparent. He ended his set with a ballad, “Angel”, explaining that as he wrote it he believed he was falling in love.
With no introduction, the second opening act, Joe Firstman, took to the stage. Quiet and unassuming, he sat down and began to play his guitar. His sound was reminiscent of Ray LaMontagne, without the pain, and Tom Petty, without the boredom, and had just a hint of hillbilly. His conversation with the audience was diffused with sly amusement and an occasional self-imposed grin.
Hopping up between songs to alternate between his guitar and the venue’s upright piano, Firstman impishly fidgeted with the hood of his sweatshirt. His songs were peppered with guitar finger picking, which only served to compliment his lyrical main course. He spoke of an interest in writing songs that “look to the future, instead of looking to the past”. His demeanor and lyrics were part world-weariness, part discovery – suggestive of a metamorphosis. He seemed to have a lot to say and only the tiny space of a song to say it.
The Kin were the big draw for the night, as was evident when a hushed silence fell over the crowd as the condensed version of the band walked onstage and the lights came up. The Australian born brothers, Isaac and Thorry Koren, played well off each other – their camaraderie evident in both their musical performance and their stage banter. Their dialogue between themselves and the audience was charming and playful.
With their soaring vocals and contemplative storytelling they wove a lyrical web of humanity and spirituality. Their only instrumental accompaniments, keyboard and an acoustic guitar, provided an ethereal backdrop. Played by younger brother Thorry, the guitar was manipulated to produce sounds ranging from voice echoing to purposeful squeaks and squeals.
Faced with some minor technical difficulties, they turned every one of them into an opportunity. A testy guitar pedal turned into a backbeat and an opportunity for Isaac to play his didgeridoo, a floppy microphone led to a trip out to the audience for an all acoustic two-song set, and an uncooperative guitar bridge led to an intimate brotherly squabble that had the audience in fits of laughter. From beginning to end, the audience was transfixed.
The Kin left the stage only to reappear moments later to chants of, “One more! One more! One more!” The evening’s other performers, Ernie Halter and Joe Firstman, joined them on stage to perform the encore – a heavenly cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”.
All of these artists are on iTunes and have both studio produced and live recordings available. I urge you to check them out and hear what true talent and musicianship sounds like. Open your ears to a world of music that isn’t overproduced and inadequate. You’d be amazed what legitimate artists like these can do with just a single instrument and their voice.
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Kate Leiss is a music junkie currently residing in Fredericksburg, VA. She is a ninja and a music warrior. She is an advocate for indie music and wants to save the world one song at a time. Follow Kate on Twitter for her latest music musings. Kate, I can’t thank you enough for being part of RadioPotato! I love your writing and you OBVIOUSLY have great taste!