“It is 1996 and you are eight years old. Your older sister buys a CD from a mail order magazine and hands it to you. You feed it into the mouth of the boom box and watch the speakers as the sound comes out, giving you a feeling you do not know how to put into words. What fascinates you is that every song is a hit, every song is magic – there is not one bad one – not one that makes you want to move on to the next. Never in your few years on this earth have you ever heard anything so beautiful. Up until now you’ve wanted nothing more than to be a baseball player when you grew up – but now things have changed. “I’m going to become a musician” you tell yourself, and you mean it with all your little heart. In doing this you do not realize, but someday will, that you have just taken your vows and are now, for better or worse, married to music.”
The words above describe the defining moment Kevin Morby decided he would not pick up a baseball bat during school, instead opting for the guitar to write his path to East London’s Hackney venue Oslo for a night of musical poetry.
Prior to his sold out performance, Morby wrote the above words for Line of Best Fit, describe how as a 17-year-old aspiring musician he would drop out of school in Kansas and set up home in Brooklyn, supporting himself by working in cafés before eventually joining Woods on bass.
Further projects with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls saw the creation The Babies, realising two full-length records and a live studio album before moving on to an area in the planet of his own, a solo record which would see his name alone on the ticket but a project backed up in creative honesty by his ever-dependable band mates; Meg Duffy on guitar, Cyrus Gengras on bass, Justin Sullivan on drums.
Having witnessed Morby cast a spell over The Lexington months earlier, I had my trepidation walking towards Hackney’s Oslo venue knowing the difference in aesthetic captivation quality.
I saw The Lexington crowd silenced with one small clear of the through from Morby has he tuned his guitar between songs, the crowd almost immersed at different levels across the room – I knew Oslo would offer a more unique, realistic challenge.
Given the shape of the venue, the Oslo audience who arrived fashionably late would find themselves stretching on their tiptoes in a bid to catch a glimpse of Morby and Duffy exchanging rifts – a challenge that would see the gentle whispering between songs become a vexatious contest between crowd and artist.
“1,2,3,4…” signalled the beginning of crowd favourite ‘Harlem River’, but also offered the first glimpse of a rare quality possessed by Kevin Morby, a quality few can demonstrate to sold out venue.
With murmurings and rustling threatening to cast a sour smell over a classic, Morby sang his opening line with a little more authority, offered a stare out to back of the crowd and, without any uncertainty, silenced the entirety of the room.
Rolling through his latest album Singing Saw, the 28-year-old alternated through his three full-length records with ‘Bloodsucker’ and ‘Parade’ slotting in alongside ‘Miles Miles Miles’ and ‘Have Been to the Mountain’ with consummate ease.
As tight as I’ve ever heard any live band, Morby’s rocking in and out, too and away from the microphone offered a subtle dominance worthy of any frontman in the modern era.
His fellow guitarist, Meg Duffy, was a genuine joy to watch. Her knowledge and understanding of Morby, Morby’s music and the evening as a whole was majestic – Duffy, in every sense of the word, is a ‘Destroyer’:
The allure that Morby possesses will forever hold the room, his ability to dip from rock and roll in to jazz and still offer the same rousing effect to the crowd will never become tiresome.
Far Out photographer, Konstantina Tzakoniati, was in London to capture some finest moments of an evening with Kevin Morby: