Joe's Pub gives me anxiety. I'm not a New Yorker by birth, and I've only been here for two weeks to begin with -- not counting my internship with this very site three years ago. And when you grow up in rural West Virginia in one of the most impoverished counties in one of the most impoverished states in the country, a really classy joint like Joe's Pub is enough to send you into an "I'm a hick kid that doesn't belong around all these East Village yuppies in outfits that would have cost me several month's pay back home" emotional tailspin.
It's a beautiful venue with phenomenal acoustics and great (and expensive) food and drinks that attracts some of the best acts in music today (Adele has played there), but it's high-end clientele are a lot different than the types you run into on a night out at the Music Hall of Williamsburg or the Mercury Lounge. By the time the dining area/performance hall was emptied of its previous occupants and they were letting us leave Joe's Pub's crowded -- but lavishly decorated -- foyer, I was on the verge of regretting my decision to make it out there that night. Tommy Wallach
was the perfect tonic to my blues, and by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been happier that I caught his set..
We premiered Wallach's single "I Will Watch" a week ago, a gorgeous piece of jazzy piano pop from Wallach's forthcoming album We All Looked Up
-- a companion piece to his debut Young Adult novel of the same name. The Friday night show at Joe's Pub -- as primo a spot for an up-and-coming novelist/performer as you can get -- was a dual release show for both the novel and the album. And through a combination of his boyish charm, the intricate beauty of his arrangements, and the atmosphere inside of the main performance area, Wallach's set transformed for me into a meditation on the blurred boundaries between youth and adulthood, and why we all need to take the time to celebrate both no matter how old we are.
Young Adult fiction is some of the most exciting (and profitable) fiction being made today, and Tommy Wallach's art-house approach of fusing music and apocalyptic storytelling reflects that. With a backing band with soaring strings and a tight clarinetist/saxophonist, Wallach brought a maturity to both his songcraft and lyricism. But the maturity was mixed with a playful side including whispered call & response numbers and a jovial repartee with the audience. You could tell how much being on that stage meant to Wallach, and every time he broke out in a wide, pleased grin, it was impossible for the audience not to root for him.
And Tommy's performance synchronized with the atmosphere to create... a moment at Joe's Pub. I'm 26 these days. And I covered three shows over the course of three straight days last week. And while there are few things in life more satisfying than a sweaty two hour set that makes you fall in love with live music all over again
, it's nice to enjoy the finer things in life too. Tommy Wallach's performance is perfect for the intimacy of Joe's Pub. It's perfect for a good meal and a nice drink -- which in my case was a deceptively strong screwdriver that left me buzzed off of both the liquor and the show when Tommy's set was done. It's perfect for good, intellectually stimulating pre-and-post show conversation which I got from the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster who are publishing Tommy's novel.
Tommy Wallach's set was so good that it retroactively made me feel guilty about my trepidation towards the evening and it definitely made me feel guilty for all the silent shade I was throwing at the East Village types in attendance. It's still easy to feel intimidated and a little disgusted at all of the excessive wealth on display, but that night was about appreciating a talented young artist with a remarkable future ahead of him -- as we reported a week ago, Paramount has optioned the rights to his film -- and Tommy Wallach left me and everyone else at Joe's Pub more than satisfied.
Be sure to check out the trailer for his new book below and make sure you're one of the first people to jump on the Tommy Wallach train. He's going to be a huge star and it's going to happen very soon.