Pete Mason: As you start your east coast fall tour, you are playing a variety of venues – larger rooms such as Higher Ground in Burlington, 8×10 Club in Baltimore, Gypsy Sally’s in Washington D.C., and more intimate rooms like The Lily Pad in Cambridge, MA, and Underground Arts in Philadelphia. How do the listening experiences for the audiences compare in different environments?
Holly Bowling: The rooms I’m playing this tour definitely have a lot of variety! It’s less about size though and more about the feel of the venue. I’m playing some spots where it’s unusual to see a solo piano act – places where you’re more likely to see a full band and spend most of the night dancing – and then I’m playing some spots that are more of a mellow environment, places where you might usually see jazz or classical music.
The contrast between them is something I’m really looking forward to. They both have their strengths. Sometimes I think the setting that classical or jazz music is played in can be hard for people to get into. It can be a little restrictive, a little stifling – you can’t move around during the show and there’s a pretty strict concert etiquette. The freedom in clubs that usually play host to rock music can be really refreshing – for the audience but also for the performer. I think it encourages you to play a little looser, to take chances.
But at the same time, there’s something really special about a room full of people sitting down and intently focused on the music together like what you get in a concert hall or a quiet jazz club. No distractions, no socializing, just a really intense inner musical experience. It can be really powerful even though people don’t really express the emotions the music inspires in them as outwardly in a place like a symphony hall the way they would at a club or an arena show.
You can really get lost in the music in a different way and just get swept away. Especially with as many distractions as there are at music events these days, and in life in general, it’s pretty great to find a space to just completely immerse yourself in experiencing music for a few hours and give yourself over to that entirely. So I’m excited to be playing both types of venues on this tour. I think the contrast will be really interesting and each setting will take the music in a different direction.
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Pete Mason: Are you viewing these venues as offering a balance between rock club and jazz club?
Holly Bowling: There are definitely some venues out there that have one foot in each world and I’m always on the hunt for those. They’re few and far between but really lend themselves well to the music I’m playing. I mean it’s not really classical and its not really rock, so where do you put it? I think it can be enjoyed in a lot of different settings – and actually, pushing the boundaries and expectations of what you can do in each venue setting is something that’s really interesting to me – but the rooms that are a crossover between the two are really a great fit.
I love to see music in places where you can be comfortable and have some freedom but the focus is also 100% on the music and there aren’t a lot of distractions. It can be a delicate balance to strike but those rooms and crowds are the best. It’s where I most like to see music when I’m on the audience side, and where I like to play best too.