Residency Post-Show: Violet Bell at Arcana, April 29, 2018

This Post-Show is the first of many which will be dedicated to exploring the local residencies at many of the area’s smaller venues.

I’m at Sam’s Quik Shop late on a Friday night sitting outside with a cheap beer and penning an overdue Post-Show write-up. Jolie Holland sings in my ears making my heart sink to the appropriate level for me to write in my most me voice. A honeysuckle scent has seized the air and filled my lungs with its late-Spring sweetness. I could not hope for a more harmonious setting to be writing about the delightful Violet Bell.

I first encountered Lizzy and Omar at Jonathan Byrd’s indefinite Wednesday residency at The Kraken in Carrboro. They were his guests on this particular night and I was knocked off my feet. Actually, I was sitting already (on a pool table) kicking back my usual PBR (on special for $1.50) and Jameson (on special for $5). The metaphor might be dead, but my feelings have not changed… Violet Bell, you are easy to love. Eager to hear them again, I made a point of going to see them again as soon as I could…

Sunday, April 29, 2018 was the final night of their 4-week residency at Arcana. I arrived early. The scent of Viceroy’s Indian cuisine had infiltrated the stairwell descending from the back door and down into the witchy speakeasy atmosphere of Arcana. I walked over to the stage area where Lizzy–who had seen me enter–sang to me with a smile on her face as I walked up. What a lovely way to be greeted by someone. Hugs and beers followed. I found a chair by a table with good lighting for writing where I parked it during sound-check and began scribbling the copious notes that would eventually inform this piece.

The show began with the worldly folk music sounds of Will and Gabe–two very skilled string players. Will played Kora, a 21-string harp from the West African nation of Mali. Gabe alternated between guitar and fiddle. What a mélange of sounds they made! The union of these instruments was stunning–fluid, seamless, like they were always intended to be played together.

I had never seen Kora before, but it is a remarkable instrument that can function as both strings and percussion, owing to its bulbous base. However Will and Gabe found another way to make percussion happen during their set when Will put down Kora, grabbed what looked to me to be chopsticks and made a beat on the neck of Gabe’s fiddle WHILE Gabe was playing it. I included a video I took here because it’s something you just have to see for yourself:

At the end of their set they told us that they are putting out an album, their first as a duo playing those instruments together. In two months it will be released and I will be waiting most eagerly for the moment it drops. I can’t wait to hear and write about it.

Violet Bell took the stage next, accompanied by local drummer Austin McCall, casually dressed to impress. Omar was rocking a totality t-shirt (from last year’s eclipse)… excellent choice of wardrobe sir! What great energy this group has. What an enchanting vibe. They look and sound like they love what they do.

The residency format proved very beneficial for Lizzy and Omar, who told me the setting had provided an excellent platform for experimenting with songs and sounds for their upcoming album, “Honey in my Heart,” which they are, in fact, recording next week. During a new song inspired by her pilates class, I found myself wishing for a dance partner. I would have been twirling around in ethereal bliss for much of their set had I not been so diligently writing.

Lizzy can really carry a note. I mean it–she can sing. During “Elephant Heart” I could feel her resounding vocals. Such visceral music. Yes Lizzy, I know you’re reading this. I’ve had your voice stuck in my heart for days now and I’m happy to keep it there.

Here’s a short clip of “Elephant Heart” I filmed during the set:

Every new song they played had a story–like hiking the Adirondacks and once reaching the top, writing a song, which they played live for the first time at the intimate Sunday night gathering. “It’s nice to see the songs grow legs and walk around,” Lizzy said. They closed out their set with a traditional Irish folk tune–upbeat, heavy on the fiddle. It was fun and I didn’t want it to end.

I am pleased to say that they have several upcoming shows, including this weekend at Shakori. You can catch them on Sunday at the Grove stage. I strongly encourage you to seek out this band, hear their sounds, attend their shows, support their ability to continue making music. For my part, Violet Bell is undoubtedly going places. I would be surprised if they did not find themselves wandering around Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island within a couple of years, waiting to take the Harbor Stage at the Newport Folk Festival. I have high hopes for this lovely duo.

After the show, Lizzy and Omar chatted with me outside Arcana for the next installment of Raw Bites, our totally raw, unedited post-show audio interviews with artists. Please have a listen:


All original photos and videos by The Editor (Matia Guardabascio).