Downtown Lawrence was brimming with live music on Saturday, but one of the most unique and enriching musical performances of the week was inside the tiny space just in front of a wall of books at the Raven Bookstore.
That’s where a rare event brought together three dynamic performers, the type who think outside of the box and bring sounds you rarely get to hear— even in a town like Lawrence.
Calvin Arsenia, the self-taught harpist, brought his charisma and rich baritone to the show with a quick performance on an array of instruments. His songwriting skills can captivate any audience, and his banjo-backed song “Kansas City Baby” is quickly becoming a favorite in the region (we’ve noted before that ad reps would be absolutely stupid not to take advantage of this song for marketing in Kansas City).
Calvin, who just experienced what had the be the most unforgettable and incomparable album release show of the year (There were costumes! Glitter! Stringed instruments!) is known for long sets that bewitch his audience. It was a much different experience watching him compact some of his best work into a short set at the Raven. But we’ve never seen him put on anything close to the same show twice, and there’s no doubt he has the stamina to keep that sort of spectacular thing up.
CJ Boyd, a solo artist who is constantly on tour, is a true lover (and master) of textures. This guy does amazing things with loops. Anything from the rustle of a string on his upright bass to his own whistling was used for rich layering in his hypnotic songs. Even his harmonica was used unconventionally. Nothing was off limits. But when he sang long, coarse, drawn out notes (for looping), it gave everyone chills.
Busker poster boy Tyler Gregory rounded out the night with impressive new music. He debuted a couple of songs he’s been working on at the top of his set— and because he isn’t old-timey enough, one of them was about the Civil War. That, combined with his timeless leather-clad and bearded look, can sometimes leave you forgetting which era you’re in.
But Tyler also debuted a new song about what happens when Downtown Lawrence bars let out at 2:00 a.m. In T-Gregs land, everything sounds like an ominous folk warning. Even a story about revelers stumbling out of the bars at closing time can sound like the stuff of legends.