It was in the days after October 25, 2010 when I first heard of The Civil Wars. (I didn’t remember the exact date, I had to look up the source.) Which in this case, was Taylor Swift’s playlist on Itunes. I’m not going to apologize.
Her exact words re Poison & Wine: “This song kills me. It’s such a real glimpse into miscommunications in a relationship. Love can feel so wrong and right at the same time. I think this is my favorite duet. It’s exquisite.”
Sold. Anyone who has ever listened to music at my house or taken a drive in my car knows I’m a fan of heartbreaking music. So I downloaded it. And played it on repeat. The lyrics. Whoa. I mean, “I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back”?!? Happythankyoumoreplease.
They played The Hotel Cafe on a Tuesday night in December and I was there. I think I even went alone. I didn’t care. I stood about five feet from the stage in my favorite LA venue and I fell in love. (A reaction made easier when I heard KCRW DJ Jason Bentley fessed up that he too fell hard for the duo.) Their chemistry is electrifying and mesmerizing and so fun to watch. I was pretty sure they were married. And they were the most adorable couple I had ever seen.
Well it turns out they ARE married, but not to each other. Which somehow makes what happens on stage that much more entrancing. They met three years ago when they were paired up at a songwriting seminar in Nashville. They made their Live from Eddie’s Attic EP from their second ever live performance as a duo, and put it on the internet for free. That was 2009.
So The Hotel Cafe show was in December. When they returned to LA in June, they sold out two nights at the Largo and one at the El Rey. I saw them at the El Rey, which has a capacity of about 900 people. And something happened that night to exemplify the power these two had. Silence.
We’ve all been to shows ruined by the people around us talking rudely and being disruptive. Well for their entire set, the only sounds from the audience were applause, cheers, woos, and whistles. But only between songs.
Which brings me to last night. Another sold out show. This time at The Wiltern. (2300 capacity) They’re getting so big!! I went with the same friend who had experienced The El Rey phenomenon, so we were a little nervous. Could THIS many Los Angelinos be quiet and respectful? How big of a venue would be too big?
We were answered by how quickly the show flew by. You’re literally in some altered state where the whole world disappears. You probably think I’m being dramatic, but other people say it too. These two are captivating. And it’s just them on stage. There is minor lighting but otherwise nothing. He plays guitar the entire time. She sits down at a nearby piano for a couple of songs. Other than that, it’s two people standing and swaying around two microphones on an empty stage. And it’s wonderful.
At one point Joy was like, “Be sure to be bending your legs, people have been passing out at our shows.” Of course they have. They’re probably forgetting to breathe. Then all the sudden it’s 11p and the smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs is wafting in.
As far as size mattering…my friend and I agree they shouldn’t go bigger than The Wiltern. Play a couple of back-to-back sold out shows. We fear the performance would lose something in a Staples-size venue.
I have so many favorite songs. Every time I see them I pick a new favorite because of the way Joy dances or John Paul gives glances. One of the crowd favorites from last night was the first song of their encore (and one of their more popular covers). I’m pretty sure even Michael Jackson would approve.
Could they be more adorable? She’s always got a cute black dress on and he always wears a bow tie. I’m so happy for their success you’d think I was their friend or publicist or something. But nope. I’m just a girl, who relates to some songs, and is happy when talented people get their due.
Speaking of which, their opener, LA band Milo Greene, was also super fun. I was hooked as soon as I saw a banjo on the rack. But their most fun trait is the, to quote Joy, chinese fire drill way they play the stage. I likened it to a volleyball game, as they rotate either instruments or positions after each song. They’re playing a residency soon at a local venue, so I’m excited to see more from them.
Top photo by Kit Chalberg.
Update: This girl also wrote about last night’s show…emphasizing Joy and John Paul’s grassroot/word-of-mouth success. I forgot to mention they did all of the above – including selling 100k records in four months – without the backing of a major label. I love the third paragraph of her piece. In addition, she brings up a good point. I definitely expect to see them at the Greek and/or the Bowl next summer.