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“For us the violin is the vehicle for a bigger message, which is not to be afraid to be different,”

~ Kev Marcus.

Six years ago, Tara was dancing ballet at the Laurelhurst Dance Studio, which is a part of Portland Parks and Recreation. It was a great environment, with talented dance instructors. For one seasonal performance, Tara’s instructor chose a song for the kids to dance to by a group called Black Violin. The song was Dirty Orchestra.

If you’ve ever participated in practicing something, or were a parent watching someone practice something, you can guess how many times I heard that song. I ended up purchasing the song on iTunes, and I even made CD copies for all the kids and handed them out at one of the early practices, so they could take their dance home if they liked.

After a couple years, I still couldn’t get enough, though I had purchased the album. It’s fun to discover musicians whose appeal turns out to be long term.

Tuesday I received an email from Portland’5, the local arts email that gives me a heads up when anything is happening in PDX, from opera to ballet to music to Broadway. It announced Black Violin, the very next night! In person! I bought tickets without even thinking about it.

Stage before Black Violin's show

Stage before Black Violin’s show

The show was even better than I was hoping for. Black Violin are packed full of energy to back up their irresistible music. Both classically trained violinists, these two men, Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus, lean more toward hip hop and R&B. So, they pull it all in together: the appealing sounds of the strings with the funky, soulful beats. The sounds were rounded out with a DJ on stage (and I’ll admit it’s probably the first time I’ve ever attended a concert with a DJ in the band), and a drummer who held his own. In my opinion, the mix is fabulous!

If you would like to read the program insert for more information about this group, and in particular their new album Stereotypes, I scanned it here: Black Violin 1 Black Violin 2

Most of the performance was their own work, but the guys also covered a lot of familiar songs that were fun for the audience members who didn’t know Black Violin songs very well. My favourite was a mash-up of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Barry White’s Let’s Get It On. I was singing at the top of my lungs for all of it.

The only down side (and this is a pretty high down side) is that they weren’t willing to let us sit through the show. Though I had recently had a small operation on my toe, I expected to be seated most of the evening, and assumed my toe would be alright. Nope. “Get up! This is a party!” yelled Kev. I had no choice, but was forced to shake my tailfeathers for hours.  My toe was angry the next day, but it was worth it. The show was a blast.

Unlike every other show I’ve attended at one of the Portland’5 events, the artists told us right from the start that we SHOULD be using flash photography, and video, and posting it online as much as possible, and to tag it with #blackviolin. I love it when people grab onto trends and use them, rather than fight them. I managed to get a couple of poor quality videos, so you get a sense of the show.

 

My last post was about visiting family in Idaho. I had two reasons to go there, and the second one was music.

Alana Davis knocks us flat with her amazing voice.

Alana Davis knocks us flat with her amazing voice.

Marcus Eaton at the Sapphire Room at the Boise Riverside Hotel.

Marcus Eaton at the Sapphire Room at the Boise Riverside Hotel.

A few of us die-hard Marcus Eaton fans know a little about each other. So when we heard that Marcus would be in Idaho visiting family and putting on a show with newly-Idahoan Alana Davis, I got some pressure along the lines of, “You should go to Idaho, visit your dad, and catch the show while you’re there.” Thank you for pushing me guys, it was the best one yet!

I’m a fan of Alan Davis too! Years ago I found out that Ani DiFranco’s song was actually a cover of Alana Davis’ 32 Flavors, so I bought her album Blame It On Me, and became a fan on the spot. Turns out she lives in Idaho now, and was able to participate in the Idaho Songwriters Association December concert. When Alana played 32 Flavors, she brought Marcus onto the stage with her and we got to hear their guitars together. I go weak in the knees for acoustic guitar.

My brother joined Tara and me at The Sapphire Room. My brother was the manager at The Big Easy (before it became the Knitting Factory) and had seen Marcus play a dozen times, but this was mostly new music for him. The delicious surprise was that there was a lot of new music for me too! While I have seen songs like Smile, and Sunrise Lets You Down on YouTube, this was my first time hearing them live.

Marcus also treated us to a song or two from the new album, one he co-wrote with David Crosby, and a couple brand, brand new songs too! I have been *starving* for new music, and it was the medicine I needed. He played song after song, covering a Bob Marley tune with Alana, and playing a song with his dad Steve Eaton, also an accomplished musician. Marcus joked about the drawback of many harmonica players, but pointed out that “My dad can actually play the harmonica.” And he could. Steve sang one of his own songs called Asleep at the Wheel that made lots of Idaho references, making a fun song even more enjoyable.

Marcus and Alana share the stage.

Marcus and Alana share the stage.

Most of my shots were from behind the stage, since that is where our seats were.

Most of my shots were from behind the stage, since that is where our seats were.

DSC_0182

We had been there nearly three hours when the show ended. I introduced my brother to Marcus and Tara was finally able to say Hi (she is prohibited from attending all his 21+ shows). Those two wanted to go home and sleep, but I was soaring on adrenalin and wanted to stay. My brother gave me the number for a local cab and I handed him my keys.

After the show I was approached by Melissa, who had noticed my camera and asked if I would take photos, since their usual photographer was not there. I happily acquiesced, and the after-show shots of all the folks involved with the concert and the Idaho Songwriters Association turned out great. Turns out that Steve Eaton founded the Idaho Songwriters Association, and remains active and supportive in it. While waiting for others to come together for the photos, I was able to meet and talk with Steve. His enthusiasm for his son’s career, and his love for his son, was evident.

After photos Marcus was swarmed by fans, friends, and family (and those categories totally overlapped). It was a brilliant thing for me to see: the musician at home. Something I feel honored to have witnessed. The love and admiration was palpable. I stood to the side, waiting for my turn. I had the chance to talk with his brother, and his sister, and his mom. The whole family is warm, wonderful, generous, the way I’ve come to expect of the Idahoans I’ve known. Everyone was buying up the gorgeous concert posters his brother made, then getting autographs all over them. It was a frenzy of favors and silver ink and laughs.

Steve Eaton, Alana Davis, Marcus Eaton.

Steve Eaton, Alana Davis, Marcus Eaton.

When most of the people were gone, a few of us fans followed him to another room where he packed up his gear. Marcus’ sister begged him for the use of his phone charger. His mom came in with a friend and we all sat around a large round table and told stories and got to know each other a little. Marcus is a born storyteller, periodically having to get up and act out the tale, once even enlisting the help of the Ohio fan to play a part of “ordinary guy” to his “obnoxious L.A. native.”

When it was time to go, Marcus overheard me calling a cab. He told me to call them back and cancel, and I got a ride home with him and his sister, while his mom drove. Now THAT was the pinnacle of a great evening for me. I couldn’t sleep for another two hours, just lay awake and grinned.

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