Kenyon Adams Live at Rockwood Music Hall

February 18, 2015

It’s an odd thing—that a place which was once a vital part of human society in a particular way, might essentially disappear from the scene over time. It’s as though the significant elements of its placefulness were of an ephemeral nature, and not merely the sum of its recognizable, physical characteristics. The most obvious example is that of a church that is no longer a place of worship. The communal and liturgical elements, whose practices have dissipated at some point in the space’s history, now express a newly defined sense of place. I think of the old stone church in Edinburgh where, at fifteen, I made my stage debut during the International Fringe Festival. My memories of that space as a theater venue remain exclusive from its prodigious liturgical history. But a stage itself, as a particular cultural place, in many ways represents the disappearance of other places that once served as the center of communal consciousness. We in the west have long lost our relationship to the village square: a place in which the community would come to enact and embody their collective aspirations. Through music, dance, drama and ritual performances, human societies would come together to ritually embody all that they hoped or feared to become. Yet, our village squares have taken the shape of the proscenium and the stage separates audience and performer in a much-diminished exchange of embodied practices. Now, we might sit still and politely applaud a riotous jazz performance, even fall asleep at the opera or ballet.

Rockwood Music Hall – At the intersection of Allen St. and E. Houston, just around the corner from Katz’ Deli in New York’s lower eastside, you’ll find an amalgamation of contemporary modes of musical performance, mostly orbiting the realm of rock, pop, folk, and blues. While Rockwood Music hall is not physically dissimilar from many of the neighboring music venues, including Mercury Lounge and the National Underground, the fundamental feeling of the place hearkens back to a time when the village square was still a vital and formative place within the community. One element in the space itself that contributes to its communal feel is the large windows which look onto the street, allowing passersby to get a sense of what they are hearing in muted tones through the walls and glass doors. Rockwood is distinctly a music venue, as opposed to a bar with good music. In fact, the bar is placed off to the side or in the back of the performance spaces, which has the effect of hallowing the stage and the performers. The audience-performer relationship is supported at Rockwood by this focusing of the room toward the stage while reaching outward and drawing in the city through the windows, as though the performances and exchanges within are representative-embodied acts, relevant for all of New York’s inhabitants.

During my last performance at Rockwood, there were a large number of people enjoying the show from outside, as though it were merely an extra row. They smoked cigarettes, chatted, laughed and nodded in smiling solidarity, looking directly into my eyes. My band and I instinctively played a louder, more intense set when shouts and clapping from outside confirmed that our audience included those on the street.

Kenyon’s Artistic Playlist:

Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Available on video, this adaptation of the comedy by William Shakespeare completely reimagines the possibilities of the use of space. It is full of whimsy and breathtaking colors! The piece feels for me as intimate and surprising as a kaleidoscope.

Bill Irwin: The Regard of Flight
American Master, Bill Irwin, with all the tricks in the book, performed to sweet perfection.

Volmond (Full Moon), Pina Bausch, Tanztheater Wuppertal
Viewable online or in the film by Wim Wenders, Pina. Masterful embodiment, capturing hope, longing, vitality, finitude and sheer joy!

Gary Clark Jr. debut performance of Bright Lights, Cross Roads Guitar Festival
Eric Clapton discovers and debuts the next great Texas Blues guitarist. Rolling Stone calls him the next Hendrix. After playing with him, I am a believer.

Ritchie Havens, Freedom. Performed Live at Woodstock
Havens opens up Woodstock with a three-hour set. After running out of songs, he improvises on the Negro-Spiritual, Motherless Child. From this moment, comes Freedom.

KENYON ADAMS was raised in Orlando, FL where he grew up singing gospel songs in church and performed widely as an actor and singer. After receiving recognition as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Kenyon pursued a degree in theater at Southern Methodist University where he played music with Dr. Kevin Hanlon and the Doubting Scholars. He has since shared the stage with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's The Lovin' Spoonful, Gary Clark Jr., Ten Shekel Shirt, Mighty Purple and many others. Influences include Little Walter, Sly Stone, Stacks Records, 4 Christian Stars, Florida Mass Accapella Chorus, Ben Harper, Tracy Chapman, The Doors, Al Green, Nat Cole, Stevie Wonder, Little Walter, Maxwell and 90's r&b. Kenyon helped to establish The Space, a music and arts venue in New Haven, CT. Kenyon is currently a student at Yale University, studying Religion & the Arts.

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