“ONE MORE SONG! ONE MORE SONG!” The enthusiastic bellows of a gleeful audience bounced off the walls of Arcana as Charles Latham brought his February residency to a close. Your Editor was among those cheering and howling that night. An audience can be very persuasive when they want something badly enough. The energy in the room was high and Charles and his Borrowed Band acquiesced to the cheers of the exuberant crowd. It had been a splendid and totally inspired night of music (with a little comedy thrown in), the last of four Sunday night shows curated by Charles Latham.
A few weeks ago, I received a note from Charles inviting Durham Beat to his month-long residency at Arcana. I am always delighted to receive invitations from artists to attend their shows and I always try to make sure we can get there. I accepted Charles’s invitation and decided to cover the thing myself. I have long been interested in the residency format. As Charles said to me at his Sunday night show, “It’s a great way to discover new music.” I couldn’t agree more.
Charles took on the roles of curator, host, and featured artist throughout his residency, each week crafting a unique sound and vibe. In week one he chose two music acts to play alongside him, duo Lisa Rhodes and Leslie Land, and Jonathan Byrd** & The Pickup Cowboys. Week two took a turn away from the usual, featuring a comedian (Brett Williams) and a magician (Mike Casey). Week three returned to the all music format featuring Simone Finally and John Howie Jr. on the lineup. The final week of his residency was mix of his previous multi-medium curations.
With Arcana’s already cozy vibe and Latham’s inviting stage presence, intimacy came easy at this show. An attentive audience, a well-tended bar, and a lineup of engaged performers, the final night of this month-long venture was a triumph of the residency concept. When I arrived at Arcana, Charles was already on the stage to begin the night’s events with a solo set. I sat at the bar with a glass of champagne and settled into the folky sounds and witty banter emanating from the stage. Following Charles’s solo set, comedian Ali Nikolic took the stage for the first of two sets of stand-up comedy.
Comedy is very good at bringing to light (while making light of) hard truths, presenting them in a comedic setting so people can more easily confront them. So during Ali’s set, when she started talking about how dating has devolved into evermore vague and confusing scenarios with increasingly ambiguous language–“from dating to hanging out to talking”–I found myself (and many others) chuckling in agreement while my heart simultaneously sank to the floor. Given the prolonged laughter in the room, her insightful and well-timed dating jabs struck home with many in the audience. Surely you, dear reader, have also dealt with the woes of ambiguity while “talking” to someone.
Following a brief tobacco-stained interlude, I watched as Charles Latham and the Borrowed Band assembled themselves on stage. Onto a second glass of champagne and a second set from Charles featuring his full band, this was the moment when I ceased to be distracted by my own thoughts and allowed myself to become totally absorbed in the music. From monster electric guitar solos by Borrowed Band guitarist Luis Rodriguez to the musings of Gordon Hartin’s pedal steel to the lyrical undressing of human emotion coming through the microphone, I was completely engrossed, leaving behind my bubbly drink and seat at the bar for as close to the stage as I could get without joining the band.
By the time Hardworker took the stage, I had ascended into a plane of joy in a way that can only be delivered by music. I had hoped to come away from the night with a smile on my face and a lead on some new music to write about–I was not expecting to fall in love. But I did. Charles had warned us earlier in the night that the first time he saw Hardworker play, he had been completely blown away. My experience was quite similar. I said as much to the band at the end of the set. A five-piece female-fronted folk band, Hardworker’s live set was intimate, incredibly sharp, and good-humored. A cohesive sound indicative of a band who has been playing together awhile and shares an intimacy between them, the delight was abound in me. I tip my hat to Charles for putting together such an inspired night. I only wish I had been able to attend the previous nights of the residency. Alas, a girl cannot be everywhere at the same time, no matter how hard she tries.
There is nothing I can really say that will adequately capture the copious emotions running through me at this show. But I can tell you that when I got home later that night, I stayed up for hours writing poetry, trying to bask as long as possible in that joyful state I had achieved thanks to the curatorial brilliance of Mr. Latham. Here at the end of this little rag of a writeup, I feel decidedly lucky that the nature of my work enables me to spend time with artists whose creations so inspire me.
**Byrd has been playing a weekly (almost) Wednesday night residency–called the Shake Sugaree Residency (named in honor of local folk music legend Elizabeth Cotton)–at The Kraken since January 2018. I’ve been to these shows more than a few times and I highly recommend trekking out to that quaint roadhouse to see him!