When we arrived, our hosts, six flatmates who share a 200m2 apartment, had already cleared the space: clustered sofas and coffee tables in the corridor, emptied the shelves, and put the piano on a rug in the middle of the living room. The musicians came and put their instruments in a corner. Everything was ready.
They had even left notes giving guests directions to the bathroom. We investigated the kitchen, which had been transformed into a bar/backstage/sound booth.
The public came in gradually, fliers in hands, waiting for the beers (which arrived late), smoking by the window, then sitting, naturally, cross-legged around the piano, talking in small groups as Erica Buettner waited, already in place.
We started late. Erica Buettner, on an upright chair with her guitar, and Stefanos sitting on a piano stool with his accordion, were waiting patiently, quietly, happily. Leaving people to have a beer, to sit down, and then be introduced to the young musician who had only ever played a few gigs, and now found herself a metre away from her audience, this heavy summer evening. Her music was slow and warm, as if she was whispering her songs into the ears of every audience member. We listened intently, not moving for fear of the floorboards creaking and disturbing her quietly unfolding music.
Ron Sexsmith had accepted, at the last minute, to join us and play at the concert. He arrived among the first few, and waited a while with one of the flatmates. I liked many of his songs, without ever really having fallen in love with his albums. This evening, it was the same. Certain songs were sublime (This is how I know and Brandy Alexander), whereas others just didn’t do it for me. But he had one consistent quality: his voice – powerful, confident, and at the same time melancholic and incredibly smooth. It filled the room, quite naturally, and justified our choice to not use a microphone. Certain voices are so much more beautiful when they are carried to you directly.
There was a string of fairy lights on the piano illuminating half of the band: Patrick Watson, his handsome face, his cap; Michka, his double bass and his Stetson; Simon, connected to an mini-amp, and Robbie, sitting on the windowsill, with a mess at his feet.
They were celestial hobos, illuminated street performers, a flawed yet beautiful circus settled in the room as if it was a clearing in a forest, something magical. Robbie seemed to hit absolutely everything – pots and pans, the bin, the windowsill, the floor, thankfully avoiding our audience.
Patrick sang, grimacing, one eye closed, deforming his mouth. When he wasn’t singing he turned to face the others, laughing, muttering, smiling. He couldn’t keep still. Sitting at the piano, he got back up, putting his hands in front of his mouth.
It was a quiet building in a quiet alleyway. It was eleven o’clock at night, they tapped on their cymbals, excitedly played the piano, and sang into the megaphone leant to them by the flatmates. It was a noisy gathering and we were bothering the neighbours. We closed the windows and finished up with a few calmer songs. The concert provisionally ended.
The band and some of the audience then descended to the porch below. What followed was even more savage, even more noisy, but all rather magical. We ended up in a little bar below the apartment and quietened down a little in this intimate venue. And obviously, that’s when the police turned up. We politely stopped, as requested. It was fine; we had had our dose of magic. We ended the day in the best possible way – with new friends, beers and laughs.
Thank you again to our hosts, to the musicians, and to everyone who was there to share the experience with us.