• Simple Living at The Alternative Café: 9/29/11

    by Taylor Jones

    Ask yourself one question: “Have you ever smelt that oddly comforting, musty air that puffs out from under the cushions when you fall into the warm embrace of a leather couch?” Well if you sat in the front row at the Alternative Café last Thursday to hear folk singer-songwriter Kenny Chung and Texas rocker Daniel Whittington, you most likely would have.
    As the audience mingles, I sit down and talk amongst new friends, one being Jordan Levine, the sixteen-year-old drummer hired by Daniel Whittington. While we wait for the show to begin we talk about bands we both admire including Neutral Milk Hotel and The Raconteurs, in addition to the unique art that fills the room. Studying the café’s new exhibit “Images of the Real World” by Czechoslovakian street artist, Ales Bask Hostomsky, I find myself entranced by the abstract urban images he uses to depict the clash of social struggles and political propaganda he’s encountered between his life in the Czech Republic and the United States. Leaving my post on the couch for a while, I stroll around the café until the lights dim and I know the show is about to begin.
    Opening the bill tonight is Pacific Grove artist Kenny Chung, a young singer-songwriter on the rise. Chung kicks off his set with an original folk song called “Talkin’ Early Mornin’ Ramblin’,” displaying his multi-instrumental talents by playing acoustic guitar, harmonica, and singing. In this song, Chung channels the energy of one of his greatest influences, Bob Dylan, narrating a social commentary about how people needlessly fight and argue with each other, because at the end of the day we are all human and we all have far more similarities than differences. After a round of applause from friends and passerby drop-ins, Chung begins to play “My Woman,” a song about unrequited love. This blues shuffle describes how he gives his woman all he has to give, but nevertheless she treats him like an animal, alluded to by such imagery-evoking lyrics like “she makes me sleep in the stables.” The shuffle pattern of this song is driving throughout, and as a drummer I think incorporating a rhythm section would solidify the effect of the beat and make the groove of the song more defined. Next, Chung covers “I Don’t Live In a Dream” by Jackie Greene, another one of his favorite artists whose set we saw together at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival. After studying Greene’s song, Chung didn’t just cover the tune on a whim, he really took the time to capture the intended emotion of the song and put himself in the place of a man recognizing reality. Ending with his newest song “I’m Still Here,” a piece filled with much dynamic movement and a chorus resembling an early Neil Young, Chung demonstrates that his songwriting is improving with every show. After the performance I interview Chung about his music, and he states that his latest song entails how a lot of his friends have moved away to college, and he is “still here,” going through his own kind of schooling making friends and connections while learning about the music world first hand. He says that when people graduate high school, they don’t always keep in contact as much as they’d like to, but it’s only natural because everyone is out starting to live their own individual lives. Appropriately, Chung’s EP titled Simple Living is a collection of songs written during his time in the Monterey Peninsula and can be downloaded via Bandcamp.
    Strapped with his polished acoustic guitar, Daniel Whittington takes the stage for the second act along with his three band mates Marc Davison on guitar, Brett on bass, and Jordan Levine on drums. Only their third performance with this lineup, the group plays what Whittington describes as “Texas rock,” which sounds a lot like the down-to-earth, easy listening aspects of Ryan Bingham. Obviously comfortable on stage, Whittington demonstrates his southern hospitality and talks to the audience like he’s just playing a show for some old friends. This personal aspect of his performance really enhances the mood of the show. Davison, rocking a FDNY sticker on his Fender, utilizes a plethora of effect pedals to create his own polished, graceful sound like a country/soul version of The Edge from U2. To complement the guitarists of the band, Brett on bass and Jordan Levine on drums hold down steady grooves together to support Whittington’s melodies. As Brett plucks a consistent bass line on the second song, Levine drifts into a second-line feel on the snare and creates a steady blend of rhythm. While introducing his song “Talulah,” Whittington jokes “this song is like one of those ‘choose your own ending’ books” since he felt the lyrics could either be about a baby or a prostitute. As the tune progresses, Davison’s electric guitar adds layers of sweet honey-like tones to complement Whittington’s acoustic performance. Although Whittington’s style is very polished and impressive, his compositions tend to be consistent in slow songs that don’t contain enough elements of movement. As an artist, you have to keep the audience’s interest with frequent musical changes in order for them to maintain interest. After “Talulah” the band starts to pick up the pace of the set and plays some heavier rock songs, as shown by Levine who plainly enjoys changing the beat and thumpin’ those toms. The band ends their show with a song called “Taking You Home,” on another rockin’ note and bids the audience goodnight, telling them about their CDs for sale at the merch table. Whittington’s latest album Private War and additional music is also available via Bandcamp.
    By the end of the show, Kenny Chung’s EP titled Simple Living represents the relaxed folk and blues atmosphere the Alternative Café provides tonight.

    See all of Taylor Jones’ music and entertainment writings at trudeaupublishing.blogspot.com

    Links:

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 7, 2011

    Topics: Young Writers' Corner

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