WAKEFIELD – The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County presented its most recent Music at Lily Pads event on Saturday night, June 25. Singer and songwriter Vance Gilbert was the headlining act, and while he played his signature bluesy sounding folk songs, he entertained the crowd just as well with his stories, jokes and conversation.
Gilbert was able to connect with the audience on a deeper level than most artists are by just playing their music. He told some of his life stories, joked around with individual audience members, and explained each song before he played it. His personality shone through his performance and he was able to engage the whole crowd with each word he said and sang.
This sense of closeness and connection with the audience can be attributed to his friendly attitude and soulful style, but a lot can be said about the venue as well. Lily Pads, located at 27 North Road, Peace Dale, is not your typical concert location. There is a small stage area and a rows of seats that can accommodate around 150 patrons. The small room provides incredible sound and a feeling of intimacy that is rare in the world of live music.
The lighting at Lily Pads makes it seem like the performer is the only person in the room. The stage area is well lit while the seating space is darker. The room is small enough so that no seat is a bad seat and even those sitting in the last row can feel like they are getting a private show. The acoustics top off the experience.
The venue is intended for performances just like Gilbert's; small shows and soft sounds that create a very pleasant environment for any music fan. David Floyd, the Events Committee Chair at Lily Pads said that he wants to put on shows where people don’t need to worry about excessively sized crowds or distracting bar banter.
“This is a great venue,” he said. “We have great acoustics and the audiences here are fantastic. We love the fact that people come here to listen, we strive for great sound.”
Gilbert wasted no time in both testing out the acoustics in the room and bringing the audience into the show. When he first stepped in front of the microphone, he noticed a young boy sitting just a few rows back with a bright orange winter hat on. He joked with the boy, then played an impromptu song about him and his hat. He drew tremendous support from the crowd, both for his spontaneous creativity and his tremendous musicianship.
He also sang a ballad about the former planet Pluto. It was a soulful and playful tune about the woes of saying goodbye. As he sang the refrain “Goodbye Pluto” over and over, the crowd responded with a mix of cheering and laughing.
He even joked about himself. When he played his song “Unfamiliar Wound” he said to the audience, “this is a hit, it's a hit in my house. I'm home alone a lot.” He even described himself and his music career as progressing from “absolutely unknown to relatively obscure.”
Not all of his songs were so lighthearted however. He sang about the lessons he has learned along the journey of his life in the title track of his new album called “Old White Men.” He did covers of two Jimi Hendrix songs, and even sang one acapella song towards the end of his set.
Music at Lily Pads is a project started by members of the Church in an attempt to bring talented musicians to the venue to express their art, according to Events Committee Chair Floyd.
“We are attempting to bring in both local and national talent, but there is so much happening in Rhode Island right now we can focus on local acts,” he said. “It is a privilege to be able to use this space.”
The opening act for Vance Gilbert was a talented duo of musicians that used the tremendous sound at Lily Pads to their advantage. Gregory Douglass and Monique Citro played a contemporary and mellow style of music and were able to use effects and sound layering to create the feeling that a whole band was on stage. Douglass played the keyboard, the guitar and sang, while Citro played an electric cello. They were promoting a new album called “Lucid,” which is a concept album based on a dream sequence.
The sound was rich, and Douglass’ powerful voice filled the room. They provided a calm, yet unique sound that kept they audience focused on the music. While they did not play the same style of music as Gilbert, they contributed a terrific opening to the show and were not an easy act to follow–although Gilbert was up for the challenge.
The next Music at Lily Pads event is scheduled for August 12 when Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players take the stage. On September 10 Hanneke Cassel and Antje Duvekot, two female solo artists, will perform. A month after that on October 10, Joy Kills Sorrow and Annalivia, two groups, will get their chance to use the Lily Pads stage.