The brainchild of Justin Trawick, the “We Are The 9” concert series made a memorable stop in Charlottesville last night at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall. Like the name suggests, each event features nine songwriters. The lineup featured the musical insight of Carl Anderson, Shanna Hoar, Michael Clem, Evan Hansen, David Tewksbury, Genna Matthew, Willie DE, Stone Aielli and Trawick himself. Before the night kicked off, Trawick took a moment to explain a bit about how things would work, and politely reminded us that since it was a “listening event,” it would be best to keep unnecessary chatter to a minimum. Fortunately, everyone complied, making an ideal setting to study lyrical content and fully appreciate the resultant emotional depth that went into each piece.
For the first set, each artist played two songs, sometimes prefaced by a short introduction about how each was created, and then immediately introduced the next artist in the lineup. Frequently, performers collaborated with each other, doing so with excellence, despite sometimes admitting to only having first practiced the fellow artist’s tune backstage a few minutes before taking it in front of a live audience.
Song themes were incredibly diverse and ranged from the challenges of dividing up a shared music collection after a breakup, the musings of a child who doesn’t want to go to bed without hearing a few chapters from a storybook first, and a profile of a person who radiates positivity right from the start of each day. After the first set of two songs, each musician returned for their encore set, which consisted of one song..
It was fascinating to hear about the origins of some compositions, and what I took away from it all was that even when songwriters craft something unique to a situation in their own life, it’s still often easy for the audience to relate to main subjects, along with specific lyrical fragments. In fact, that characteristic is one indicator of a remarkable songwriter, and a main reason why I kept my eyes and ears steadfastly riveted to the stage throughout the evening.
The “We Are The 9” series got its start in Washington, DC, but has since branched out to include several other Eastern cities, and even a few locations on the opposite coast. Tickets are always only $10, so if you’re interested in getting a glimpse into the artistry of music within an intimate environment, check out the series in another town, or make it a must-see event on your musical calendar if it returns to Charlottesville again.