Joe K and Garrin Benfield at the Towne Crier
The Towne Crier in Pawling, NY is a really classy place. Open since 1972, it is a restaurant that hosts live music every weekend. The crowd that the Towne Crier draws is a warm and enthusiastic one (at least it has been all the times I’ve been there) and I love the atmosphere of the place. Every musician or band the Towne Crier hosts is high quality, and last Saturday I was there for a show by two musicians: Joe K and Garrin Benfield.
Joe K (that’s short for Krzyzewski) was opening the show. He is a 16 year-old guitarist singer-songwriter, and his writing is more poetic and heavy than a lot of musicians three times his age. One of the songs he played on Saturday was a bluesy one he wrote called “Heart of A Woman.” Joe explained that it is “about the problems with women all of us men have,” cracking up the audience. His writing, playing, and singing are no laughing matter though, even if his jokes are. Joe’s voice has a vigor and spirit at times, a broken weariness at others, all the while weaving a compelling story. A highlight of Joe’s set was when he brought his friend John Stegmaier onstage and the two sang a song about the Civil War called “Put Me In Blue” (John and Joe are actually in a band together). Should Joe choose to become a musician for a living, it will be interesting to see how he progresses in his music as he gets older.
Garrin Benfield plays a smattering of folk, soul, jazz, and blues, among other styles. He’s not your average singer-songwriter, or your average solo act for that matter. Listen to a live video of him — without watching it — and you won’t believe that what you hear is not a whole band. The reason you would think you hear a full band? Because Garrin sets up a loop station during his shows which he lays multiple tracks down on and then plays over. That allows him to improvise with, well, himself! Not only does he lay down multiple guitar tracks, but he also achieves percussive effects by recording loops of himself tapping the guitar. The loop station expands the traditional definition of a “solo” show and adds unique variety to the concert. He doesn’t use it for every song however, and although I think what Garrin does with the loop is incredible, some of my favorite songs on Saturday were actually played without it. They were stripped down, just bare guitar and vocals, and the most poignant. It’s good to have a mix of songs though, and Garrin played a healthy blend: sunny tunes, dark ones, energizing songs, lullabies… During his set on Saturday he also played a beautiful cover of Gillian Welch’s “Annabelle.” It’s a haunting song and Garrin’s voice was well suited for it. During the slower songs such as that one his voice had a clarity and strength, the gorgeous tones of it really shining through and piercing my heart. Near the end of the night Garrin gave a performance full of intensity involving the loop, waves of multi-layered music emanating from the stage, before closing the show with a sweet and tender song he had just written that morning. Garrin’s entire set had perfect balance, and the last song was the perfect choice to cap off a great evening.