On October 12th, I experienced one of my top shows of the year when I went to see Trevor Hall perform the first night of his two night run at The Social in Orlando. Once inside, I noticed the stage had taken on a tranquil Zen. A large banner of clouds acted as the backdrop for the minimalist presence of only a few instruments. Adding to the effect, there was a palpable vibe of upbeat serenity among this gathering of fans.
If you haven’t already heard of Christina Holmes, the night’s opener, I highly recommend you look her up! Her music is loaded with so much good spirit; it’s nearly impossible not to love it. “By Your Side” cut me particularly deep.
Her notably humble presence drew me in first. She radiates genuine passion and contagious happiness through her graceful guitar playing and uplifting lyrics. This is definitely an artist. One worth seeing live.
The next artist is one I recommend keeping a look out for as well. Will Evans sounds ordinary enough, but don’t let the name fool you; he is leagues above most singer-songwriters out there. If you enjoy one-man-band artists like Keller Williams and Zach Deputy, you will love his live performance as much as I did. Evans employs a loop pedal to layer acoustic guitar, beatboxing, and various types of vocal harmonies, which I find to be particularly captivating. This video should give you an idea of how his sonic wizardry flows.
What’s more is his lively stage presence. He wasted no time in getting the crowd to participate in singing parts of his music. It all flowed in a remarkably natural way with his memorable call-and-response lyrics, which clearly resonated from the heart. Everyone around me was singing and, from my experience, that’s not very common for an opening artist, especially one who isn’t too well known, yet. I hope to see him headlining his own tour in the future.
I would like to emphasize how reverent I am of artists who are able to draw the kind of honest, comfortable environment that the people at this show manifested. To see everyone come out of their shells for a few hours and come together through the connection of music is absolutely beautiful. Medicine for the soul.
The main event of the night began with a modest walk on stage, which gave rise to applause and cheer anyway. Before going in, I had imagined Trevor would be playing a solo set. But, I was even more pleased to see a few other musicians with him: percussionist Doug Smith, upright bassist Brian Lang, and keyboardist Eric Robert.
A moment after they took their places, Hall began the opener of the night, “Mama and Papa,” from his newest album, KALA. There was something about those first few lyrics that struck a powerful chord with me.
I gotta open up / Moons have been rising and falling / I’m going inside, have no fear / I heard it close like a whisper / And now I got it in my bones dear”
This was my first time seeing Trevor Hall and I thought I had a fairly good idea of what I was in for with this show. I’d seen his videos, but was totally caught off guard by how much more emotionally moving and inspiring the live experience was from the outset. As if Hall’s talents on guitar and vocals were not stunning enough on their own, the band adds a blissful mix of percussive textures and harmonious ambiance, taking the music to even more glorious heights.
Hall prefaced some of the songs with an explanation of what inspired them, adding depth to the performance and making the music much more memorable for me. I wish more artists would do this actually. Even to have meaningful commentary throughout a set is a great way to connect with fans. He does it all with the soothing finesse of a guided meditation.
This came as little surprise to me, actually. Recently, I read an article from Elephant Journal about what inspired the new album and what I discovered was quite profound. Take some time to read it! “Kala” is the sanskrit word for “time,” which as mentioned, is something we must all come to terms with in various ways in our day to day lives. Trevor Hall, a longtime student of Indian spiritual culture, speaks volumes of wisdom through the album’s lyrics in this regard.
Trevor Hall is never hesitant to express any sentiments of love either. A moment I found particularly touching was his introduction to the song “Back to You” (also on the new album). It’s a love song he wrote for his wife who called him during his tour because she missed him and couldn’t sleep.
Admittedly … my eyes watered a little bit. Anyone who has ever been in love knows how strong the feeling is. To me, this is what makes the best kind of art. I like to really feel the music I listen to and relate to it, you know?
I should mention what they played next was apparently a song that everyone loved because I kept hearing people call it out whenever there was a long enough pause to make requests. Trevor Hall and the band finally obliged with their performance of “The Lime Tree.” If there had been a meter to measure the level of overall love and happiness in the room during the song, I am certain it would have overloaded and broken the needle. I would say this was the high point of the night if it hadn’t been finished off with an even more beautiful encore a few songs later.
For the sake of keeping this review slightly shorter than a novel, I will fast forward from here, but the setlist (from what I could gather) was as follows:
Mama and Papa
Green Mountain State
Well I Say…
Doug Smith’s killer drum solo (seriously.. wow!)
Back to You
For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)
(might have missed something here)
Encore: Bowl of Light
Trevor Hall preceded the encore with a story of one of his encounters with Hawaiian culture and how he learned of their long-held belief in “mana.” As it’s told, this is a spiritual power/life force, everyone is born with. He explained that mana is kind of like light and is stored in a vessel much like a bowl. When someone does something “bad,” a stone is dropped in the bottom of the bowl, preventing it from holding as much light as it is capable of holding. Fortunately, he told us, we have the choice at any time to tip the bowl, let our light shine, and start anew.
In relation to this concept, Hall reflected on some of the memorable words passed to him from an important mentor, which resonate brilliantly through the repetitious chant in the chorus of the encore that followed.
The last song left a deep impression with me. One I’ll reflect on for quite some time. There’s so much more I could say about how much this show impacted me and why, but I think I would rather leave some curiosity for anyone who hasn’t experienced these phenomenal artists yet. If you have a chance to catch any of them on tour, I cannot recommend it highly enough; don’t miss it! 🙂
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Trevor Hall Concert Photos by Adam Fricke.