This review was previously posted at The Chris Dallman Connection. I thought I would post here for reasons which will become clear very soon! :)
Having already made the acquaintance of Christopher Dallman and Aiden James in the virtual world, I thought before attending their show at the Skylark Club and Café in West Seattle on Sunday night that I was going to be in for a mellow, entertaining evening featuring two guys and their guitars. I wasn’t prepared for such energetic and brilliantly charged performances!
Unfamiliar with the Skylark Club, I had heard that it was your typical divey Seattle music joint and not to expect much. Of course, the individual who told me this has previously performed at Benaroya Hall and The Triple Door; we’ll forgive him if his thinking was a little skewed! As it turned out, the Skylark is a cool, hipster - albeit small - venue that affords an intimate and personal setting with the musicians who grace the tiny stage. Save for the creepy Addams Family-style portrait on the side of the stage with eyes that seemed to penetrate through the darkest of souls, the Skylark is a great venue and served these songsters well on the final stop of their Double Trouble Tour.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit space, I scanned the room for my friends. Spotting them at the bar, I walked toward the front of the room only to look up and see the lithe frame of Chris walking towards me with a contagious grin spread across his face and arms open wide for a hug. Even though we only know each other from online communiqués, I instantly felt like I was reuniting with a long lost friend. Every bit as warm and open as his online persona, Chris is a truly affable soul.
After the friendly greeting, he quickly hurried off to tend to final preparations before taking the stage and I sat down next to my friends at the bar, with Aiden James on the other side of me. Aiden was on the phone when I arrived and beat a courtesy retreat to the back of the room when it was time for the spotlight to be on Chris, so I wasn’t able to say Hi to him right away. Within a few moments, the opening chords of ‘Count the Shadows” filled the small space as Chris opened his set. I am most familiar with his last two albums Never Was and Sad Britney, and had not heard many of the tracks from his freshman offering Race the Light. I was glad his set included older and newer compositions as it allowed me to get a full appreciation of the long journey he has made to that small stage in West Seattle.
In addition to familiar tracks such as “A Little Bit of Blue” (on which he was accompanied by Aiden in a synchronous harmony that belied their still fresh collaboration), “Motel Room”, “Subterranean” and “Over My Head”, the audience was treated to a couple covers of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” (or Cyndi Lauper depending on which decade you were born in!) and Madonna’s “Borderline”. The inspired “Anthem”, written by Chris the day after Prop 8 passed in California, transformed Chris into a modern-day folk singer.
During the Intermission, I had an opportunity to chat with Chris. A naturally friendly, outgoing guy he’s easily approachable and comfortable to be around. Taking a break from the club and getting a breath of fresh air, we chatted like old friends trading notes about life in L.A. and life in Seattle.
His cohort and partner-in-crime for the Double Trouble Tour, Aiden James is just as friendly and easy-going, if more serious and – well, for lack of a better term – moody. But not in that annoying kind of way that makes you want to roll your eyes and slap him up the side of the head. As I have gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more that the things I observe first in others are usually those things that I know to be true about myself but may not necessarily let me them be known right away for fear of appearing vulnerable. It was that vulnerability that I sensed in Aiden almost immediately from the moment I first saw him, sequestered at the end of the bar, deep in conversation on the phone. I could immediately tell that he was a serious person –serious about his craft, passionate about his life’s path; someone who channels his passion into a creative outlet, beautiful music being the output of those efforts. A man with a dream he so desperately wants to realize and in Aiden’s case, he is savvy and motivated enough to make it happen.
To be true, I’ve not taken the time to listen to Aiden’s music as much as I have to Chris. This is in no way a reflection of Aiden. It’s my failing – and my loss - for not making the time. I have heard his track “On the Run” off the album of the same name, and seen the accompanying video, but hearing it live is so much better than through my ear buds or factory stock computer speakers.
As Aiden made his way through his set, I felt connected to him through his soulful, heartfelt lyrics that were so very real they were palpable. Like Chris, he stopped between songs to tell the stories that inspired the tunes, relating life lessons learned throughout his 27 years. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories that inspired the lyrics. “Mifflin County”, “You and He” and the unreleased “On My Sleeve” created a nexus with the audience that will last long after Aiden returns to his hometown of Philadelphia. His medley homage – humorous and respectful - to Lady Gaga was met with glee from the audience and left people wanting more.
As a writer, I take much inspiration from those who expend a lot of energy creating and putting their wares out there to be listened to and judged by the critical masses. Christopher Dallman and Aiden James are the next generation of indie musicians. They are musical orators who are telling their stories and sharing their journey along the way with those that will stop and listen. For myself, this show was one that will stick out in my mind. I hope that the next time I see them live will come much sooner, rather than later.