The second Outpost After Dark concert on Sunday, Jan. 22 at Art Markers Outpost (609 South Blvd.) featured fine performances by Vivian Garcia and Michele Thomas in front of a crowd of about 35 people.
That number might seem small, but the room’s capacity is about 50. It was warm and intimate, like a large dinner party, although without the food.
Sketchbook Brewery served complimentary brews, there were bags of popcorn and pretzels to snack on and twinkling lights on the ceiling and faux candles on the tables added homespun ambiance.
The three curators of the salon series – Val Kahan, founder of the Outpost and its creative director, and musicians Anna Soltys and Chris Greene – spoke to the friends and fans gathered.
Soltys introduced Garcia, her longtime friend and fellow musician, regaling the audience with Garcia’s musical explorations of “rumba flamenca rhythms in Granada, Spain, to jamming with international folk musicians in Madrid.”
Garcia was noticeably nervous, which she confirmed in chatty remarks between songs. Typically she plays with backup musicians. On Sunday, she played alone. But as soon as she began, her musical muscle memory kicked in and her beautiful voice took command of the room. Garcia sings with passion and her original songs and melodies tell her stories.
Her lyrics told of unrequited love, sexual longing, loneliness and other calamities of modern life. Universal themes that she sings in a jazzy, bluesy style with a lot of soul and heartfelt emotion, switching effortlessly between Spanish and English lyrics.
Frequently she sounded like Amy Winehouse on her Back to Black album, but there are influences of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday too. Garcia’s music is available for purchase on Bandcamp.com.
After a short break, Greene, a renowned saxophonist with his own group, the Chris Greene Quartet, introduced Thomas, a jazz vocalist and singer-songwriter he’s been following for years, with whom he has played in the past, and did so again on Sunday for a couple of songs.
Thomas was accompanied by Tim Fitzgerald on guitar, Darren Scorza on drums and Clark Sommers on bass. The songs featured were from Thomas’ most recent album, The Assumption, which deals with themes of trust.
Thomas introduced these songs by explaining how she was inspired to write about trust and how it inspired the album’s title.
“Trust is where we can meet our humanity. Most all songs are love songs – mainly about romantic love. But I like to think I write love songs for social justice, love songs for equity and love songs for community.
“In a time of ‘alternative facts’ and brazen lying, true trust has to actually be grown between two entities, which is how we know what is real and true. So in order to address the brokenness of our society and institutions, we have to grow the kind of trust that binds us together in community and teaches us how to be human to one another.”
Thomas opened her set with No More (music by Hubert Laws, lyrics by Jon Hendricks), a declaration of independence and a determination not to put up with society’s limitations. It’s filled with confidence, relatable lyrics and a beautiful melody.
Her voice is rich, vibrant and commanding, whether describing a visit to her father’s gravesite 27 years after his death and coming to terms with their last interaction (Plot and Stone) or defyingly proclaiming how all life begins in darkness (Dark).
Thomas’ music including The Assumption is available for purchase on Bandcamp.com.