House shows are one of those unique musical experiences that change a person’s perspective of live music. There’s an intimacy about them that offers the crowd a sense of comfort and seems to bring the group closer together. Last night was no exception.
The minute Koji started to play for the small crowd gathered in 221 E. Park Ave, a silent calm seemed to settle over everyone present. It was a performance, but one in which the audience felt perfectly at home to chime in and add to the conversation.
Before the show, Koji told me that “art is a human right” and that artists not only have an obligation to be creative, but to “make art available in the home and community.” This is why he is helping keep the tradition of house shows alive.
Before Koji went on, four opening acts set the mood for the evening with an array of mostly uber-mellow tunes. Throughout the openers, guests wandered around, some sipping at drinks while listening inside, and others chatting, laughing, and smoking on the front porch. But as soon as Koji prepared to play, the entire group crowded in close, in great anticipation.
His set had a casual sort of beauty about it, intertwining jokes and stories between songs, revealing his magnetic personality that just exudes comfort and cheer. His dynamic vocal style, ranging from soft and soothing to a high energy shout with just the slightest hint of a Bob Dylan rasp, was prominently featured in “Color Quiet Loud.” He even had the audience meowing their own guitar solos after the bridge in “Minute 7,” like some sort of cool version of a Meow-Mix commercial.
And, of course, he didn’t neglect to give several shout-outs to State College as the town that helped him get his start and as a home away from home. He especially thanked Asylum for helping give him the confidence as a young musician that helped him get where he is today and the Song Writers Club for helping put the show together.
Before concluding, Koji challenged audience members to ask themselves “What are my talents? What am I interested in? What use am I to the world?” rather than allowing the media to tell them what to fear and what to want.
A powerful cover of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel,” a sing-along performance of “Spring Song,” and a brief encore of Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay” rounded out the night.
All in all, the evening played out more like a bonfire at a friend’s house than a concert. You know, minus the fire. And it was indoors.