World of Beer in downtown St. Petersburg, FL, was the site of a memorably bittersweet time for me and my family this past Saturday. My cousins were holding, in their typically eclectic way, a kind of wake after my aunt’s funeral mass while also celebrating a good friend’s birthday. As we drank and hugged and laughed outside in the close and humid Florida night, we were accompanied by a sultry alto on guitar with occasional bluesharp solos. Being unable to ignore music even in times of grief, I stole away from my family to get a closer look at Erica Blinn.
I enjoyed Ms. Blinn’s music and performance. Her ‘harp-playing, in particular, was impressive. Led Zeppelin and other classics were covered with flair. I think she performed a few originals, but my thoughts were elsewhere that night so I can’t 100% confirm. I would have liked to hear more guts and juice in her vocals at times, but it was extremely solid overall.
What brought everything together, however, was the overall package; she had some great ideas I have to share.
1. Even experienced and confident bar bands or on-stage supporting acts seem to struggle with their merch and stage presence, which can look very amateur, boring, or both. Erica created a lovely and personalized space for herself and her drummer by placing a suitcase filled with her merchandise just to the side of her part of the floor. It was lined with a strand of tiny colored lights (what my British husband would call “fairy lights”), which were also wrapped several times around the bass-drum to create an effective yet understated sense of impact and visual consistency in the shadowy bar. This isn’t what I wanted the focus of my blog post to be about, but I have to tell you about it because it’s such a great idea for traveling. At the next venue, you simply have to set it on a barstool, open it up, and plug in the lights.
2. I dislike loud bar bands which force you to scream at your friends and servers for three hours. Erica’s sound (a small line-up of a reduced drum kit, her guitar, and lead and harmony vocals) was just perfect — not too loud, not too anemic. Her sound carried well through the large bar space and out the open windows into the adjoining outdoor courtyards. I particularly liked the drum set-up: no cymbals or toms! I imagine this would be ideal for reducing both unnecessary sound and set-up time in smaller venues on the road, not to mention allowing the drummer to be more visually prominent and close to the audience. Occasionally the drummer would shake a maraca which he’d also play right on the snare. This expanded the sound in a novel, ear-catching way. I didn’t miss the full drum-kit at all.
I grabbed a picture so you can see how it all came together. Please check out Erica Blinn’s debut album and her site, where she also describes her favorite songs, guitars, tattoos, movies, drinks, cities, food, and motorcycles. More female musicians like this, please! I wonder if she needs any Wurltizer on upcoming tracks? 😉