Eef Barzelay isn’t exactly a known name in very many circles. Mention the band he occasionally fronts, the one with another curious name—Clem Snide—and you’re met with more blank stares than smiles of recognition. It’s all the more reason why the Nashville-based singer-songwriter has been able to pull off his latest string of Living Room Shows; it’s why he played atop shag carpet in someone’s Winter Park home last Saturday. Some came. Not all, but certainly just enough.
It wasn’t necessarily a sell out performance (and, even if he had done so, that number wouldn’t have topped 40). Instead, Eef had somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 wide-eyed fans on couches and floors and bar stools gathered around to hear his pick of songs and stories. And that’s okay. It made it intimate. It pretty much demanded intimacy.
I was one of those lucky fans. I got to sit on a pillow just a few feet from Eef and a spectacularly lit Christmas tree, listening to songs like “Jews For Jesus Blues” and “Ballad of Bitter Honey” and the most somber take on Journey’s “Faithfully” you ever did hear. And for 90 or so minutes, I’d found my happiest place. If all singer-songwriters everywhere did exactly as he’d done that chilly night, I’d go broke making absolutely certain I made it to every single one. Promise.
I mean, think about it. Or think about what it isn’t, really. Nobody’s trying to film the whole show from the front row. Nobody came there to talk over the one performing. No high-priced drinks. No chain smokers. Ah, it’s a definition of bliss that belongs in the dictionary.
So the thing about Eef is, even though he owns a pretty earnest voice, his lyrics are about as dry as they get. He’s sardonic. He’s funny without smiling or asking you to ‘get’ it. If you allow yourself to take a step back in the middle of watching him do all he does—dancing and singing and playing the hell out of his guitar or baritone ukulele—you can’t help but wonder if he’s too smart for his own good. Does he know everyone gathered isn’t catching all his jokes? Is he okay with the fact they’re just happy to hear all that emotion without absorbing his words? (And, maybe most importantly, am I over-thinking all of this?)
There was a time not so very long ago that I was sitting on the floor of a Brooklyn club where Eef was playing. It was a rainy night, not one most would have wanted to be out. And, for what it’s worth, it was also too loud to hear everything, too stuffy and far too crowded to be enjoyable. It’s embedded into my brain all the same. Saturday’s living room show, however? I have the hunch it’s going to stick around a lot longer, maybe even shove the other one right out. It was just a great Christmas treat of a night.
After the show—and after ending it with “All The Way” and just the right amount of falsetto—I handed him the album I’d grabbed out of his box and asked him to put his name on its front. He mentioned he could even personalize it, so I took the bait, shared my peculiar yogurt-sounding name and told him to go for it. And, wouldn’t you know it, but Eef remembered my name. He even remembered my last name. (I’d helped fund a Kickstarter project of his a couple years ago and he’d written a song for me as a thank you of sorts.)
Well. Nice memory, Eef. Perhaps you really are too smart for your own good. By all means, keep that up. Keep all of that up.
Eef Barzelay Live Review by Dainon Moody.
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