Photo by Tenaya HillsBARRETT JOHNSON
GYPSY DEN SANTA ANA
FRIDAY, AUG. 5
Some of our most beloved musicians—like Damien Rice, among others—got their start in coffee shops and on street corners, and tonight we met a new one: coffee was sipped, conversations were shared, and souls were warmed as Barrett Johnson serenaded a small but attentive crowd. Since breaking with his friend and fellow respected musician Jason Fleetwood, Barrett has quietly ascended through the ranks of underground solo artists and gained an entourage of adoring fans in the process. His folky music tells stories of hardship and the good times in between, and despite the small and inadequately equipped stage, an upright bassist kept a quiet counterpoint to Johnson's understated picking. Each pause between songs meant a tune adjustment and a change of harmonicas to complement the varied play. He's got a subtle but familiar style—early Paul Simon vocals and McCartney solo guitar, and we could probably find more clichd similarities if it hadn't been for the gabbing quartet camped directly in front of the stage—how about bringing a muzzle to the next show so the rest of us can listen? Nonetheless, the short-but-sweet set featured old favorites as well as new songs to be released on his in-production debut album. "South of Where You Want to Be" was a crowd favorite and the only song played sans bass. "Small Hands" recalled childhood memories, and "Unsent Letters" was a touching little song, during which a woman sat on the floor, nuzzled by her young daughter, who'd fallen asleep. She awoke to vibrant applause.