Backstage Pass: Elijah Dhavvan, Tom Rhodes, and Claire Michelle

I need to make a point of seeing more live shows in 2017. On Friday 27 January 2017, I caught 3 solid performances at Columbia City’s Columbia City Theater in Seattle: Elijah Dhavvan, Tom Rhodes, and Claire Michelle. As I’ve mentioned here previously, I’m not a music expert or a critic. I was there to take photos first, and to enjoy some good music second. The musicians did not disappoint.

Elijah Dhavvan, of Tobias the Owl, kicked things off. I’d never heard of Dhavvan or Tobias the Owl. After hearing his set, I’ve got a new musician to follow.  It was a solo night for Dhavvan, and he served up a set list of soulful, minimalist songs. His lyrics are clear and reminded me of Texas singer songwriters. (I fall back on that comparison too often; I blame it on Townes Van Zandt.)

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Elijah Dhavvan, Columbia City Theater, Columbia City, 27 January 2017.

Dhavvan talked to the audience throughout, explaining that it was never easy to get up in front of people and perform. I believe it. He was sharing his experience with the audience, not asking for its sympathy. That’s one of the great things about catching acts in smaller venues – you get a better sense of the artistry of it, rather than an understandable emphasis on the production. He also mentioned that one of his first performances was on that very stage at the Columbia City Theater.

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Elijah Dhavvan in the audience, Tom Rhodes on stage. Columbia City Theater 27 January 2017.

Tom Rhodes was up next. He drove up from San Francisco for the show, but his musical roots and influences traveled a lot further. I think I heard him say Virginia. With that drawl, the occasional twang, the wry, self-deprecating humor, I assumed he was from that region – Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia.

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Rhodes has a reserved stage presence, and as bad luck would have it, for his and Claire Michelle’s parts of the show a loud, talkative group showed up at the back of the bar that was not there for the show. It’s a bar, it happens. Regrettably, I missed some of his descriptions of his music and lyrics. I heard enough to know that his father, who has passed away, figures strongly in his music. His website has some fantastic old photos, and I’m assuming that the older gentleman in them is his father. Rhodes also explained that he normally plays with a band, sometimes up to eight people. But he was playing solo that night, because cramming eight people into a Ford Focus just wouldn’t have been pleasant. I hope Rhodes points that Ford Focus (or perhaps a van) north again soon.

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Tom Rhodes, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

Claire Michelle closed out the evening. I’ve caught a few Claire Michelle shows now, sometimes solo, sometimes with the band. On the 27th, she played with the band – Andrew Duncan on bass, Alyssa Martini on drums, and Jerett Samples on guitar.

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Claire Michelle, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

Michelle’s music, like Rhodes’, took the long road to the Pacific Northwest. Michigan was home before Seattle, but with her voice, sparse lyrics, and style, I would have bet that she was from the region where blues, folk, and maybe a little bit of bluegrass collide. I’m not sure that region exists, and I can’t say I’m all that familiar with music out of Michigan. Regardless, it all comes together really well. It’s a tough call, but I think 12714 and Emergence are my favorite tracks off of Out of the Shadows. If you catch Claire Michelle play, and you should, I’d wager a drink that at some point in the show Michelle will get into a short contest of tuning wills with her guitar. I envy musicians their ability to discern sound and music that clearly.

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Claire Michelle, Columbia City Theater, 27 January 2017.

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