Cover photo: Jessica Wedden performs during Marvest 2017. Photo: Derek Mellon

Saturday couldn’t have been a better afternoon for Marvest, the free portion of CityFolk that brought several short performances to untraditional venues over the span of Bank St. The venues were all within walking distance of each other, and combined with the unusually warm September weather, it made for a magical musical adventure unlikely to be soon repeated.

Vicki Brittle started my afternoon Marvest hop at Fifth and Bank. The sizable indoor courtyard made for amazing acoustics. Brittle’s strong and powerful vocals filled the huge room with an echo you could feel in your soul, to the point where she almost didn’t need any amplification. Her voice had an edge that reminded me of Elle King or Stevie Nicks. The courtyard’s brick and foliage made for an earthy setting, complementing Brittle’s tunes nicely. She is a very emotive singer, her songs raw and cathartic. She played mostly original music, with the exception of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. She was very intimate with the audience, speaking about each song before playing it on her guitar, and demonstrating her passion expressively on her face as she sang.

Vicky Brittle performs during Marvest 2017. Photo: Derek Mellon

Next, I walked a few blocks down the street to check out Steph La Rochelle at Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s. In stark contrast to Fifth and Bank, this venue was crowded, squishy, and clearly not meant for live music. La Rochelle was standing in the window with her guitar, wearing a cowboy hat and blue jeans, and looking very country and picturesque. Her voice was pure and smooth, capable of delicate high notes and loud swells alike. La Rochelle played mostly original pop/country songs, with the exception of Rhianna’s “Umbrella”. Her performance was clean and flawless, despite the awkward space she was playing in. With shelves of toys taking up space, families with young children trying to shop, and store employees putting away stock, the hustle and bustle of the venue was a little distracting. This made me curious as to how differing environments or atmospheres can have an impact on how a performance is perceived.

Steph LaRochelle performs during Marvest 2017. Photo: Derek Mellon

This idea compelled me to check out one more act, Tariq Anwar at the Farmteam Cookhouse. I had seen Tariq perform several times before, but always at The Atomic Rooster. It would be interesting to see how the change in venue might affect his show. Tariq took to the outdoor patio as the man in black, dressed from head to toe in dark formal clothing and wearing his signature fedora hat. Due to the late summer heat, Tariq soon regretted his decision, making a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to the audience that they never wear black on a hot sunny day. Tariq played gritty blues/rock, foot-stomping music, emphasized by a rhythm stomp box and harmonica which he played simultaneously with his distorted guitar. His songs were largely dark and contemplative. One song that particularly struck a chord was “Bank Street Blues”, written about mental health and addiction issues Tariq had observed while playing his residence at The Atomic Rooster. Tariq received an encore at the end of his set, which he obliged with a cover of “Moon Dance” by Van Morrison. Overall, Tariq struck me as an old soul, calm and wise and easy to listen to. The change in venue was refreshing, as Tariq himself called out when he commented about how it was fun to play originals in a setting that would normally call for covers. Every time I had previously seen Tariq perform, it was in a loud bar setting where he had to fill a long set with cover material. This time, I could really hear him clearly, and I particularly enjoyed hearing about the inspiration for each of his original tunes.

Once again, Marvest was particularly interesting as an opportunity to experience music in untraditional spaces and notice what effect that had. The artists were all fun to listen to and were extremely supportive of each other, each calling out other artists and encouraging the audience to check them out. The love and support for local music was felt, and it was truly a unique experience that I recommend to all.