by Susan Lloyd
Playhouse, January 29, 2009
A great movie will stay with a person long after it’s been viewed. The opportunity to process the plot, analyze the characters and look for more meaning is one that carries on long after the two hours or so spent in a darkened theater.
A great show will stay with a person, too, and Fiction Family in Atlanta at The Variety Playhouse was a great show.
I was there to be
a part of that experience several days ago, and the sights, sounds and
atmosphere are still very much with me as if I had just stepped
out of the venue at the end of the night. I’m still reliving moments,
hearing the echoes of acoustic guitars and harmonicas, still watching two
of my favorite musicians enjoy making their music, and still I am enchanted
by it all. It’s fitting that I would see Fiction Family in The Variety
Playhouse, an old movie theater cleverly converted into a venue for shows.
The wooden stage is met by an open floor area with fixed seats further back.
The terraced side seating area had plastic deck chairs stacked up, ready
for un-stacking when the 500+ guests would arrive to see the show.
The natural atmosphere of the venue, laid back with a history, begged for an intimate show where graciousness and camaraderie flowed from the stage along with the strains of some of the most organic, honest music being played today. Foreman and Watkins were the perfect pair to dole out that kind of night for those of us who were ready to take it in.
I’ve had some very positive things to say about Fiction Family’s
self titled debut and knew that I would enjoy hearing the songs live, but
I had no idea how well those songs would transition to the stage. Fiction
Family opened with the ethereal and earthy “We Ride” that allowed
Foreman to do some funky stuff with a random piece of equipment and recreate
the managed chaos of the album version. And that was just the start of the
musical magic four men; Jon Foreman, Sean Watkins, Tyler Chester (keys, bass)
and Aaron Redfield (percussion) could produce in an hour and a half set.
Watkins, of Nickel Creek and Foreman of Switchfoot are no strangers to the stage, racking up a collective total of around 26 years of performance. And it shows. I’m not sure if anyone is more comfortable and happy on stage than Jon Foreman, and at one point, sporting some borrowed “Kanye West” type shades and man- handling “Resurrect Me”, he proved again what a natural showman he is. And Watkins had more than one chance to show just how he can blaze through some remarkable runs on an acoustic guitar. He had a gorgeous instrumental solo in “War in My Blood” and then dazzled everyone later in the set with “Cherokee Shuffle”. Both Watkins and Foreman worked the crowd with wry humor and moments of spontaneous crowd interaction that made us feel as if we were hanging out in a coffee house together instead of standing on the floor of a 650 seat auditorium.
Certainly there was
no air of competition between Watkins and Foreman with each having his
moment to shine. Watkins used his moment to sing the biting “Somebody
More Like You”, which he commented was written about a girl he had
met years ago at the Variety Playhouse. And Foreman gave the most arresting
moment of the night when he borrowed a large knit hat from an audience member,
pulled it on his head over his eyes and sang “Please Don’t Call
it Love”, easily the the heaviest song of the night. I’m still
not sure how he pulled it off… he looked incredibly silly. But somehow,
he did and had his audience spellbound.
Family’s CD runs just under 40 minutes, Foreman and
Watkins also have personal catalogues to pull from so there was no shortage
of material to fill the set list. This crowd was familiar with every piece
played, but the largest response came when Foreman played “Your Love
is Strong” a selection from his Spring EP. Thad Cockrell who opened
the show earlier joined Foreman et al on stage and most of the audience belted
out the words and sang along. Electric. We were also treated to the as-yet-unrecorded “Just
Rob Me” that Foreman introduced as a song that would appear on the
next album…next album! The set list was well constructed and yells
for an encore were rewarded with the haunting “Throw it Away” and
the jaunty “Look for Me Baby”. Seeing Foreman play a very tiny
member of the banjo family for that song fittingly capped off the night.
The atmosphere created
by the easy style of complex music, the intelligent wit of two friends
who make music together, and the grace and ease of seasoned
performers made the night seem transcendent. For the audience, it felt as
if we were all best friends enjoying the moment together. These are the kinds
of shows that we long for, the kind we will drive hours and hours to see,
and the kind that leave us warm and glad we’re alive. My guess is that
we haven’t seen the end of this fictional family. I feel sure there
will be a sequel, a follow-up replete with more deeply easy music, another
tour, and the magic that only true musicians know how to produce.
View more concert photos at Susan's Flickr page here
All photos copyright Susan Lloyd. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com