A small coffee house on the outskirts of Main Street was the center stage for a few young songwriters.
The front door opened into a gathering space, sparsely populated with a few couples and rows of folding chairs.
There was quiet ten minutes before show time, whispered conversations fell on lost ears as their subjects admired the art and ambience of The Starving Artist.
As sound checks began, more people, one, two, sometimes three at a time, would sneak in hoping not to disturb the artists.
They would pay the door fee with a smile and start unraveling layers meant to ward off the Keene Sept. chill.
Seats were taken and the lights lowered as a tall young man with glasses and a guitar stepped in front of the microphone.
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With a sheepish smile he introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Ian Galipeau. I’m going to be singing some, well mostly all, original pieces. This one’s called ‘When I Come Around.’” And with that modest introduction, he began a song sung softly with a complex melody and gentle guitar.
His lyrics conveyed a tone of one given enough in life to be content and then who had it all turned on its head.
It was clear in his expression the toll the songs were taking on him-nostalgic, and not necessarily in a good way. With each beat punctuated by small movements, the vibe was undeniable.
The set continued and despite the dysphoria distilled from his lyrics, Galipeau was able to keep the mood lighthearted. The next song, “A Song Like Any Other” was exactly what he needed to get the crowd of twenty-somethings to start moving in their seats.
With a folky twang and heavy strums, the beat hit everyone and the mood was infectious. The show kept everyone laughing, with Galipeau telling an anecdote or a joke in-between songs. At one point his guitar cut out, and he informed everyone with a wry smile that “for those of you who don’t know, acoustic guitars have batteries in them.” He continued with songs that were constantly affecting the crowd, first singing a song distilled from a Norman Rockwell painting, then about an ex-girlfriend.
All of his works were lyrically beautiful and kept the listener interested. Galipeau explained his final song as “if you’re male and been in a relationship with a female, you know that sometimes you’re both not on the same communication level.” A song about a former bandmate, roommate, and friend he softly sang “regrets and not regrets” as he still isn’t over it. With an emotional ending and warm applause, he introduced Dietrich Strause, a songwriter originally from Pennsylvania and now based out of Boston.
His lyrics suggest comparisons to city and country life, both of which he has experienced.
Intricate finger picking turned Strause’s guitar into something much more powerful than wood and strings; it was able to pull at the hearts of all watching.
Beautiful viola came in and out of the songs, sometimes offering an entire solo and other times simply enunciating the beat.
Folk and country influences being apparent, the two genres blended in such a way as to keep you thinking about your hometown and your current situation in life.
“It’s hard for me to understand these moving parts, the city lights,” Strause sings, and a slight smile escapes as he notices the lens of the photographer.
Heads bobbed and feet tapped, subconscious symbols of approval were echoed in each audience member.
The elation was inescapable as Dietrich sang a love song about a woman on a sinking ship, the beat rippling through the crowd and the chorus echoing off the roof. For the last few songs Strause took out his trumpet and switched between heavy acoustic strumming and beautiful horn solos.
At the end, there was a standing ovation and kind words. After the show, Dietrich Strause commented on his musical history saying, “I was forced to learn an instrument in elementary school, then I actually learned to play the trumpet first, then I started to play in a soul R&B band in high school that were older guys, friends of my family. I’d go out and play in biker bars and stuff like that. That’s kinda how I got ‘ruined’ as they like to call it,” he said. “And then I started to pick up playing guitar cause it was more fun, and in college I started writing songs.” When asked about his experience, Strause said, “Oh, yeah for sure, definitely on personal experience. I like to think of books or images or stuff like that, I get a lot of inspiration from other works of art.”
Commenting on his musical history, Strause said, “My dad played trumpet in college, and my sister is a musician and plays the bassoon. But other than that, yeah and my mother was a music major in college, she’d kill me if I forgot that.”
He went on to say, “She was a voice major. It definitely helped.”
Strause also said, “I listen to a lot of folk music. I’ve been listening to Warren Zevon a lot, he’s great.”
Strause also talked about his musical goal saying, “Oh I don’t know. I guess I simply want to live well and be happy.”
An incredible show and a suggested $5 door fee make the Starving Artist one of the best places to be on a Friday night in Keene.
Charles Stahl can be contacted at email@example.com