Last week, I had the opportunity to attend one of the most unique shows I’ve ever been to. As part of Mark Rose‘ and JT Woodruff‘s Warm Our Bones, Caffeinate Our Hearts tour, the pair stopped in Gloucester, Virginia to play a private house show in a home studio, to about thirty people and the entirety of the Internet via StageIt.com. The streaming format is something that seems to really be picking up some steam. I’ve watched a few performances through the site previously, and attended Punchline’s 15th Anniversary show, which was also available as a stream. The difference this time is that the show was much smaller, and the setup through the studio made for some great audio for everyone watching online. I hope that more artists pick up on this, because it should alleviate some of the pains felt by fans as the result of some tour routes missing their cities.
When I showed up to the house, Mark greeted me outside and we talked briefly about when we’d do the acoustic session and interview we’d set up earlier, before heading inside to hang out for a bit before the show. Rather than the usual nervous energy of standing in line and milling about in general admission waiting for the music to start, this pre-concert time was more like a party, with football on the big screen, food in the kitchen, and lots of seating in the way of comfy couches. Definitely a pretty low-key environment, and something I’d definitely be interested in experiencing again. After an hour or two, everyone began heading upstairs for the music to start.
When I got upstairs, I found the show space to be the main area of the studio, set up with lights and sound equipment. Though it was smaller than almost any other venue I’ve ever been to, it was an appropriate size for the crowd and made for a very intimate feel. Opening the show was Felicia Hoyos, a local act who filled the room with her tremendous voice and kept the crowd interested with a mix of original songs and covers. After about half an hour of soulful music, she left the stage to make way for the next portion of the night.
In a different format than what I’d expected, both Mark and JT took the stage at the same time. Rather than having one play a full set and then the other do the same, the pair traded songs back and forth, filling space with stories, banter, and plenty of audience interaction. Rather than playing in a truly collaborative fashion, each individual got their own time to play, with only some small accents being added in by the other – a lead line here, a harmony part there. It let the songs speak for themselves, while still maintaining a friendly aspect to the performance and avoiding the pitfall of having someone just sitting on stage doing nothing while the other played.
I’d seen JT perform acoustically with Hawthorne Heights before, but this was an entirely different experience, since he made a point to play solo material nearly exclusively, foregoing the tracks that anyone might expect to hear for a mix of tracks from Heavy, Heavy, Heavy, Heavy Heart and Ghost Coastal. While this might seem disappointing to some, it was good to hear him doing something a little different, particularly when it was crafted specifically for this sort of performance. In the last third of the set, perhaps the most collaborative performance of the night came on “Pleasants County Blues,” from Ghost Coastal. While JT played guitar and sang, Mark played the tambourine and drummed on a bucket. Check out a video of the performance below, with the unrelated stories behind the song and the bucket included.
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Similarly to JT’s song selections, Mark’s set consisted largely of solo material, both from his full-length Wonderful Trouble and his new EP The Sound Of A Turnaround, which was released on the first day of this tour. While it didn’t seem as though he was planning on playing any Spitalfield songs, he chose to play “Loved The Way She Said L.A.” after a fan in the audience requested it. I was particularly impressed by Mark’s guitar abilities, since he achieved a very full sound from a single instrument, all while singing at the same time. Pretty great. After JT played a Tom Petty cover, Mark played one of his own, the counter-intuitive “Enter Sandman.” While it might be strange to imagine this song translating over to an acoustic setting, it worked beautifully. Listen for yourself below.
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After the show concluded,the audience made its way downstairs, where there was merch, as well as more food, beverages, and a house party atmosphere. I stayed upstairs to interview Mark and record the acoustic session before returning downstairs myself. A great part about this sort of small show is that it allowed the musicians to interact with fans on a one-on-one basis in a way that simply isn’t possible at a club or arena. Throughout the night, there was a feeling of friendship and lightheartedness, all built around some great musical performances. I’ve never been to anything like this before, but I’m definitely interested in going to something similar in the future. Cool stuff. Be sure to check out my interview and exclusive acoustic session with Mark Rose!