Re-cap and photos by Whitney Lerch
The Pittsburgh Winery, one of my favorite listening rooms in the city, was the place to be on December 9th. With Youngstown raised, but honorary yinzer JD Eicher opening for Pittsburgh’s beloved Joy Ike, now based out of Philadelphia, it wasn’t surprising to see the show was sold out, before doors opened.
JD warmed up the room with a 12 song set, the majority of which being his memoir-esque originals. He allows listeners to see into his heart and soul and feel his life experiences, while leaving you with a feeling of love and hope for humanity. It’s truly an art, how he is able to focus on the positive, with all of the turmoil and challenges a person encounters throughout life. And more than focusing on the positive, he has a way of aspiring to find the good, to create the good, when it doesn’t already exist. The desire that we all would simply “Stay young, make love, be well”. While you can listen to the lyrics of any song and decipher the meaning, or at least a meaning, as colored by your own heart, experience and interpretation, the singer-songwriter storytelling style show is always a treat.
It’s an opportunity to learn the inspiration for each song and what it means to the artistic mind that created it. It also allows for the audience to have a personal and intimate live music experience. On “Lines In The Sky”, JD shared a story about looking up at the sky, on a trampoline, watching planes fly over and the contrails left behind gradually disappearing. Combine the vanishing contrails in the sky with a brilliantly philosophical lyricist and the result is this beautifully metaphorical story of the fleeting existence of relationships and life as a whole. The desire to find that personal connection that will last forever and be the exception to the rule. The hope that “we are more than now” and not “just lines in the sky”.
The predictable creature that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed the cover song of JD’s set, Coldplay’s “Yellow”. Cover songs are always a highlight of a good show for me, which is not to undermine my love for original music and the incredible talent that’s required to create it. I just find it fascinating to hear an alternative interpretation of someone else’s art. It’s more than simply mimicking the original songwriter/performer, but rather an opportunity to take one person’s thoughts and emotions and add to it, color and shape it, with the experiences and feelings of another. JD did not disappoint with this, or any of the songs he performed that night.
As JD’s melodies permeated the cellar, the perfect pairing to a glass of fine, Pittsburgh made wine of your choosing, the room grew warm and felt more peaceful. His show ended on an upbeat note, with a seasonally appropriate “Jingle Bell” mash duet with Joy Ike. The perfect transition to Joy’s performance.
With a similar storytelling style performance, Joy later took to the stage with her band, Ryan Socrates on percussion and Jason Rafalak on upright and electric bass. Starting off with songs like “Nomad” and “No Matter What”, Joy began to open up her life to the audience. You can feel the influence that her upbringing has had on her music, being the daughter of Negerian immigrants who wanted nothing more that for their children to have more opportunity and happiness than they had, themselves.
As she plays keys throughout many of her songs, she becomes so passionate that she elevates from the bench, pounding out the notes with overwhelming emotion. That soulful voice infiltrated the room and elevated the performance to one that you could feel at your core.
Even with a lighthearted story about a Nigerian boy who was given her phone number, by her aunt, that cold called her wanting a relationship that led Joy to write “Promised Land.” The song itself is a beautifully tragic love story of a couple that cannot be together, because they come from such different places. She went on to share “Hold On” and “By The Fire”, which were both songs of inspiration, that she wrote for 4 family members/friends who had been going through particularly difficult times. To bring them comfort and let them know that hope is coming, Joy partners with a non-profit organization, Food for the Hungry and does not hesitate to share her passion for their work from stage. The organization focuses on empowering those who are underserved and living in poverty, helping them to optimize the resources they do have and fostering an environment that allows them to care for themselves, while providing them with clean water, food, education and medical care. Joy encourages the audience to do their part and sponsor a child and offers literature about Food for the Hungry at the merch table.
Prior to wrapping up the night, when folks were migrating to the merch table, Joy closed out her set with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. But then, the crowd demanded an encore and she came back for one last song, ultimately ending the night with her usual closer, “Go”. The entire evening, start to finish, left me with more hope for humanity and feeling just a bit more christmassy. JD and Joy alike, deliver beautiful messages of hope, love and inspiration and it’s clear that they are not only incredible artists, but more importantly, incredible people.
For more information on Food for the Hungry, visit: http://www.fh.org/about
JD Eicher Set List:
The Little Bit
Yellow – Coldplay
Two By Two
Lines in the Sky
Not Everybody Runs
I’d Like to Get to Know You
Jingle Bell Mash w/Joy Ike
Joy Ike Set List:
No Matter What
By The Fire
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Give A Little