The brick walls invited me into their warmth, begging me to sit down and listen as the stage lights created shadows and a soft, dull glow against the deep red. About nine tables filled the room, with very limited seating. To the left of the small stage, a single guitar case was strewn across the back door.
Welcome to Witzend, a venue of simple bites, drinks and live music ““ the quintessential listening room.
In a space as small as this one (I swear it was smaller than my apartment), it was impossible not feel as if I was somehow transported from a street in Venice, Calif., to a poetry club in New York where I half-expected a man with bongos, sunglasses and a beret to walk onto stage to the sound of people snapping.
Yet, the setting was perfect for the music that was to come: the sounds of the Beatles.
Usually, Witzend is host to a multitude of live performances, with a few different acts on stage every night whose styles range from blues and classic rock “˜n’ roll to folk and pop and every other style in between.
Every so often they have themed nights, as they did on Saturday with Beatles
Night, where all acts featured some of The Fab Four’s tunes in their two to three song set while the evening’s host and some waitresses moseyed around dressed in the iconic, military-inspired Sgt. Pepper jackets.
It was incredibly interesting to see how each performer would manipulate the pieces in order to make it their own.
Although some acts did not do their song of choice justice, most of the performers’ artistry transformed their song while keeping its original essence intact, said fellow listener Zara Khan.
“It was incredible to see how they took the songs and made it their own while still keeping the Beatles’ distinct mark still in it,” Khan said of host Jeb Milne, guitarist Keaton Simons and 13-year-old Dylan Nash demonstrated.
Jeb Milne, the owner of Witzend, began the night’s festivities with a mind-blowing rendition of “Golden Slumbers.” In the middle of the song he amazed the crowd as he switched voices; he actually changed the style of his voice to match both dimensions of Paul McCartney in the original recording, and match it he did. I actually thought someone else started to sing before realizing it was the same person performing.
Keaton Simons’ showmanship made it feel as if the audience was a part of the band. Playing “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” as his Beatles choices, Simons and his group had the most incredible charisma that invited the audience to jam with them. Their music transformed the listening room into one giant party as strangers began to sing with each other at the top of their lungs, feeling the music throughout their body.
Dylan Nash, a 13-year-old boy, gave the most shocking performance of the night. As he took the stage, the audience, including myself, was skeptical about his act, not sure what a little kid was going to do and worried he would mess up. The second he opened his mouth, all these thoughts dispelled and the crowd erupted into a cheer. He had the most raspy, deep voice that perfectly matched that of the song he was performing, “Oh, Darling!”
Although the night was dedicated to the Beatles, musicians also strayed from The Fab Four’s music to play original pieces. I was first unsure about how well that would fare but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the whole night as I found my new favorite musicians: Connie Lim and Nina Storey.
Lim’s musical innovations for her song got the crowd instantly intrigued and hooked. Her original piece was created entirely by her voice and simple chords on a piano. She created the percussions with her mouth, feeding them into a machine that would loop them for the song and which she could control, editing out and inserting sounds as she went. The crowd watched as a beautiful song was created in front of them.
Storey was my personal favorite of the night. Her own creative piece was a catchy yet raunchy Christmas song. By the end of it, I was singing along, somehow picking up the words I had just heard about a hot and steamy holiday fling.
The originals, coupled with the classic sounds of The Beatles, created the perfect musical atmosphere. When it was time to go, I didn’t want to leave. I felt like I was just hanging with my best friends, who happened to be musically talented and singing some of my favorite songs.