Friendly fire: Travis Elliott


Travis Elliott is preparing to hit the road on a tour that will last a couple of months. He's been hard at work writing new material. Recently he's been playing gigs in town as Travis Elliott and Friends­ "and Friends" being any random selection of local musicians he can find to sit in on a session.

Tuesday night at Starr Hill, "and Friends" consisted of Andy Thacker on mandolin and Tucker Rogers on guitar.

I've written about all three players in the past, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm already a fan. However, Tuesday was a new night, a new set of Travis Elliott songs, a new way of interpreting them. Who knows what could have happened?

The two-guitar/mandolin combination actually fit Travis' style rather well. Also, to his credit, his newer songs show an immense maturity and depth of emotion. I believe the melancholy accompaniment helped to bring them to life, even though Tuesday was the first night the trio had ever played together– and there were moments where that was apparent.

The songs sounded fresh and inspired– in part, I assume, because the unorthodox trio brought new life to them. There were moments of pure genius where Thacker and Rogers traded licks over Elliott's strumming like they had practiced it a thousand times.

My biggest gripe with the night wasn't with the music itself. It was with Elliott's cigarette smoking. I'm not being righteous here. I smoke myself... way too much. I too fashion myself a vocalist, and I'm well aware of what the cigs do to a person's vocal ability. Thus it pained me to watch Elliott puff away between songs. His voice has such an alluring quality, and I could hear the once-effortless notes starting to have difficulty escaping his lungs.

I've talked with many singers over the years, and they all say the same thing: "I gotta quit these things." Yeah, dog, you really gotta quit. Protect your gift. It's special.

Friday night I wandered over to the Twisted Branch. Never have I seen the little teahouse so packed. The Extraordinaires had come to town for a (kind of) debut performance of an album/short story. Although the group's project was conceived in Philly, three of the five touring band members are from Charlottesville (hence "kind of debut").

The album accompanying the band, Ribbons of War, is a clever, highly involved romance that's set to progressive indie music. The record itself actually comes with a book­ each song corresponding to a chapter. I've rarely seen a more put-together project.

In celebratory fashion, lots of good spirited folk turned out to see a couple of local boys doing good, and to wish them farewell as they hit the road the following day. The result was a hot-hot venue.

I finally found the moxie to push my way into the crowd. Only then was the show as enjoyable as it should have been. The band played well even with limited sound equipment. The big bummer was that it was hard to make out the vocals, thus the stories were lost in the jumble of guitar and drums. Maybe it was a ploy to get us to buy the album. Sneaky devils.