Charismatic singer-songwriter and Spokane native Darrick Thompson treated a handful of people to an acoustic performance at the Luxe Coffee House on Saturday night.
Thompson, a former Zag, played two sets of a variety of his own songs, as well as covers; and the cozy setting of the Luxe — a coffee shop on West First Street downtown — was perfect for Thompson’s informal, yet welcoming performance.
Thompson played standing up in the corner of the room, which usually houses the Luxe’s largest booth. The space was perfect for his bare-bones performance, which consisted of his voice and his acoustic guitar — no amp, drummer or microphone. But Thompson didn’t need anything else. His clear, resonant voice filled the entire shop.
The audience consisted of members of the Spokane community, including Thompson’s friends and family — as well as his grandparents and his father — who came to see him play live before he left Spokane the next morning.
Thompson said he plays several acoustic shows a year, and that these kinds of shows are conducive to both the audience’s listening experience, as well as his growth as a musician.
“It’s very nice, it’s very refreshing,” he said. “You realize it’s not all about you, it’s about the experience for everyone. You’re sharing something personal with them… That’s why music resonates with people, and it’s nice to be a part of that.”
An avid traveler, Thompson currently resides in Chicago, but tours throughout Europe. Traveling has been a huge influence on Thompson’s work, and is ever-present in his lyrics.
“Traveling puts you out of what you know. I’m most creative in that situation,” he said. “It’s the most honest way of putting your skills to the test.”
Gonzaga students were treated to Thompson’s lyrical tales when he played at CoffeeHouse in Crosby last February. He said he hopes to return to play another CoffeeHouse in the fall. By then, he will have new material to perform, as his newest album, entitled “Liar,” will have been released. (Its release is slated for late June.)
Thompson called the album a “big, huge step” in the sense that production was larger-scale, he recorded with a full band, and it took longer to complete. He had the opportunity to record it at the Chicago Recording Studio, where big names like Wilco have recorded some of their albums.
“[The new album] has a broader sonic soundscape,” Thompson said. “There’s something charming about low-fidelity acoustic music, but you grow up and depart from that. The new album runs the gamut in that it has soul, blues, pop, classic rock.”
Thompson’s songs deal with a myriad of subject matters, including, as he puts it,” the plight of man, wanting to be liked, love,” and is overall, “selfish, straightforward music.”
The charming indie-folk style of his current album “I Was an Aeroplane” — which he called a “notorious mom record” — was definitely executed effectively in the intimate, acoustic setting. His songs tell tales of travel, lost loves, growing up and perseverance; and they were as resonant as his voice, if the rapt attention paid to him by those in attendance were any indication. Indeed his music seems to translate well to audiences of any age — it is equally perfect for ambient study music as it is for road-tripping.
“I don’t know where I’m going/ but I know I’ve got a ways to go,” he sang.
He also played a Jackson Browne cover, as well as a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel.”
Thompson’s varied songs translate extremely well to a solely-acoustic performance. Some songs were upbeat and some were demure; but whether they were played in a rhythmic, strumming fashion or with proficient picking, Thompson made it look and sound both easy and fun.
Another song included the simplistic, yet prolific lyrics, “Life in the city don’t mean that much to me/I work for nothing… you’re all I ever need.”
While the audience had its staple listeners, People flitted in and out of the shop for coffee or a quick listen as Thompson played, something he took note of, even if the audience didn’t. He noted that some of the Spokane’s Top Models (an event that had taken place at the Knitting Factory that night) had come in and then left.
“Story of my life,” he joked. “Transatlantic failures at wooing Top Models.”
It is this humor and easy, conversational tone that was part of what made Thompson’s performance so enjoyable. He interspersed his songs with quick-witted interjections that drew laughs from everyone in the room.
One anecdote found him recalling a time during a show in Chicago in which an intoxicated woman in the crowd was trying to convince everyone that Thompson was a woman, due to his ability to sing in a higher pitch. (This prompted me to wonder if Neil Young ever had the same problem.)
Thompson admitted that working on his new album has allowed him to hone his vocal skills more sharply.
“It’s pretty high and raspy. It’s kind of squirrelly sometimes,” he said, “but understanding what it’s capable of, it’s good,” he said.
After two sets, almost two hours of playing, and a sing-along finale number in which the audience was told to “keep on keepin’ on,” Thompson called it quits for the night. But one thing is clear after hearing him interact with his audience throughout the show — despite his globetrotting, Darrick Thompson still loves Spokane.
“Spokane people are interesting,” Thompson said. “[Playing here] is conducive to being creative.”
When I left the shop, still on a caffeine rush, I was thinking that I needed to make this a Saturday night staple — sitting and drinking a Luxe-made spicy mocha out of a mug the size of my face while listening to live music with a friend.
All in all, in Thompson’s words, the whole thing was “not a bad way to spend a quiet Saturday night.”
To learn more about Thompson or hear some his music, check out his website here.
By Rachel Garcia
Photo by Rachel Garcia