Material: The songs of Travis Marsh fall somewhere between stark soul reminiscent of Hozier as well as some California country artists. In fact, one of the few covers in his set is a countrified version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” “Lay Me Down” is arguably the best original, while the lyrics of “Happiness” delve into serious analysis of the addiction cycle: “The ties that bind/The human from the mind/The inner child from the pain/ The needle from the vein...All insane to maintain/ Round and round I go.”
Musicianship: Although this show was the first time the group performed live together, the audience couldn’t have guessed it. The group excel at building up tension in every song, beginning with a little guitar and vocal only for a bar or two, followed by the introduction of bass and finally the full band all together. “Give Me A Reason” is a great showcaser, with tight stops that are milked to the hilt. On “Lay Me Down,” especially, the band brings down dynamics expertly. Most of the solos are brief 4-bar arrangements, which keep the band tight. However, on songs like “Give Me A Reason,” when Marsh takes the time to introduce the band, it seems like the perfect opportunity for each musician to get an extended solo.
Performance: Marsh’s banter teetered on the self-deprecating side, but elicited enoughchuckles from the audience to keep the energy up. The band also helped here by working into their opening grooves underneath each song introduction. At points, Marsh sang a little too into the mic, which was unnecessary for the size of the venue and his naturally powerful voice. Both Olema and Bishop joined Marsh for lovely triple harmonies on choruses throughout the set. Marsh was sure to promote himself while remembering to give props to the few artists he covered.
Summary: Blessed with a tight, skillful band, Marsh could improve upon his small-venue performance set-up. He could stick with either bass or cajon, for example, as they did compete for sonic space. Since the band’s sound veers toward acoustic, he could also make the choice of performing with guitar and violin only. That said, the challenging higher melodies of his songs would benefit from the accompaniment of some female backup singers.
The Players: Travis Marsh, guitar, vocals; Aaron Bishop, bass; Mike Szymczyk, percussionist; Jesse Olema, violin.
Photo by Manny Dominguez
Travis Marsh - "Lay Me Down"