BY CELIA ALMEIDA
On most nights in Gainesville, there are multiple venues hosting live music for local fans to enjoy. Even residents who have not ventured into the local music scene may have been to Double Down Live or the Atlantic at some point to catch visiting national acts.
One of the charms of the scene for those fully immersed, however, is the opportunity for more intimate and cozy listening experiences at local restaurants and coffee shops that host acoustic performances by some of the town’s finest singer/songwriters.
Such an opportunity took place Friday night at local Colombian restaurant Puerto Tagwa. The restaurant recently expanded their space, which includes a backyard with a small stage where customers can dine and catch some music in a family friendly atmosphere.
The show featured performances by local favorite Lauris Vidal and singer/songwriter/pianist Kelsi Maria. But the toast of the night was Ricky Kendall, for whom this was a homecoming show after over two months on the road.
Kicking off the show was Kelsi Maria, playing at her piano in hot pink skinny jeans with a shock of long, teal hair; looking like an Indie Gaga. But her sound was much more subtle. She charmed the crowd with back stories about the inspiration behind her songs, one of which she transformed into a beautiful confessional track about the apprehensions of falling in love from a single line in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Her husky and soulful voice expressed a maturity that balanced perfectly with the youthful innocence inherent in her songs.
While Kelsi Maria is fairly new to the local scene (here’s hoping we’ll be graced with her EP and more performances soon), Lauris Vidal is a veteran and beloved regionally, so it is always a treat when he takes a break from the road to play a few gigs in town. Vidal played his usual brand of stomping punk-infused folk songs, including “Skeletons” and the wailing “Better Part”.
When Ricky Kendall took the stage, it was clear that he was surrounded by an extended family of sorts. He played original songs that he’s written over the span of a decade in Gainesville, most of which can be found on his masterpiece of a record, “Soul Searching.”
Introducing his song “The Year”, Kendall spoke about his belief that he is not a prolific writer, and that he only writes at times when he has a specific message to convey. Perhaps that is why it seems that every song he writes is so phenomenal.
The gathered hometown crowd clearly recognized how special these songs are, as they sang along all night, and did not need to be prompted to join in the usual sing-a-long at the end of “Peace With God”.
There was a special moment during the song “Speak to Me” where Kendall sang “I will sing with the people that I love,” as he looked deep into the crowd, taking in the love that was being shown to him. It is a love that he has felt even while on the road away from home. While on tour, he said with gratitude, his audiences were “all from Gainesville and I didn’t have to pay for a hotel room for two months.”