Sure, big sold out shows are amazing. The feeling you get when lost in a sweaty mess of people while singing your heart out… there’s really nothing better unless you have an experience like me and sixteen other people had last night. One of the rules of concert blogging is to never tell your reader just how dead a concert is. Focus on other things or the abundance of energy just, whatever you do, never say that the show was “lightly attended”. Clearly, I’m not a typical writer and though I try to follow as many rules as I can, I can not convey how amazing Wednesday night’s show was without setting the scene for you. An empty venue with two musicians on stage singing their hearts while the audience just took it all in… yeah, sold out shows are cool but last night’s show was magical.
I honestly didn’t even know there was an opener and, when I walked into Amsterdam Bar & Hall and saw the opener’s name on the sheet stating the set times, I still didn’t recognize the name. It wasn’t until Mike Ireland took the stage that I realized just what was about to happen. Mike Ireland was the guitarist of I Am The Avalanche, a band that was fronted by the headliner of Wednesday night’s show, Vinnie Caruana. As Mike took the stage I realized I was in for a much more nostalgic night than anticipated.
Mike’s songs weren’t recognizable to me as I had never heard his solo project named Spirit Houses but his voice instantly brought me a sense of comfort and it felt like I had been listening to his music for years. That comfort was surely due to the heart-on-his-sleeve aspect of the set that reigned supreme for both of the performers. There was something honest and unfiltered about his performance and the way he talked to the audience. Before even jumping into his music, Mike let the crowd know that he has never been that great in front of large audiences. There were crickets and then a roar (or as much of a roar as can be from just over a dozen people) of applause. It really broke the ice and although I felt a bit down and blue about the fact that nobody was at the show, hearing Mike kind of make fun of it definitely helped ease the tension and my bummed-out-ness.
Time wasn’t wasted and it felt like as soon as mike left the stage, headliner Vinnie Caruana was taking the stage and jumping to a set that I could have only imagined in my dreams. He started early but, with such an intimate show, it just felt kind of right to not have much down time between acts. Whereas Mike’s set was unfamiliar yet comforting, Vinnie’s set was like seeing an old best friend that I hadn’t seen for years. The small crowd moved closer to the stage and then, with eyes closed, Vinnie jumped into a set that would be full of some of my favorite songs, some songs I had never heard before, and a sense of love that was greater than I’ve ever felt at a sold out show.
Small and informal, I loved getting to hear stories from Vinnie between songs. I learned so much about the meaning behind some of my favorite songs and also felt like I got to peek inside his head a little bit. He was honest and didn’t stray away from telling the truth but anything and everything. From the story about him not being able to sleep and binge watching The First 48 (a personal favorite show of mine) to the story of him getting a restraining order planted on him just before he was about to travel across the country and kill an ex-best friend for stealing his girl (long story and I feel like your punishment for not being at the show last night is not getting all of the details), there was just something so real about Vinnie that, although I’ve seen his other bands before, I’ve never gotten a chance to see this side of him.
That raw and honest aspect at the show not only came through loud and clear as he told his stories, it was also felt through his music. Playing songs from not only his solo material but also treating the audience to tracks from I Am The Avalanche and The Movielife, the barrier between artist and audience was gone. Vinnie eagerly took requests from the crowd and although he wasn’t able to play every request, he and the audience member that asked for one of the song he couldn’t do as a solo guitarist came to a compromise that always left the entire audience happy and singing along. I’m not going to tell you what songs he performed because, again, I’m still a little bitter that there weren’t many people at this show and I feel like you don’t deserve to know the set list, but I will tell you that every single song was played with an undeniable sense of heart and passion.
You’re not supposed to talk to about empty a concert is but the fact that there was virtually nobody at the show last night is what made it amazing. It was seriously an absolute honor to be able to take part in such an intimate show with two stunning musicians and to see a side of both Mike Ireland and Vinnie Caruana that I never thought I would see. Magic. Last night was pure, absolute magic.