City Limits Live is an acoustic coffee-house concert and conversation, played out in a downtown art gallery.
For those unfamiliar with the city’s talent pool — especially the singer songwriters — the monthly showcase is a proper introduction.
“I don’t think any of us have heard everyone who is playing in town, no matter how plugged in your are,” says Vince Warner, a longtime local musician who has hosted and moderated the event since July.
Warner curates each show with a mix of established acts and up-and-coming performers – guys like folk singer Steve Ono, pianist A.S. Angelo and guitar wiz Trey Tosh. In December, the showcase featured Llama Boy frontman Gary Baxter and Visalia country singer Rudy Parrish, alongside songstress Ashlee Gerard and Johnathan Sterling, both of whom are newer to the scene.
This month’s performance on Tuesday Jan. 26, features blues man AC Myles, plus Geoff Thurman, Levi Tucker and Evelyn Fey.
The show in an intimate, informal affair. The songwriters play from couches inside the Jewel FM Gallery. The audience sits within touching distance or stands slightly further back sipping free beer and wine provided by the Gallery. The performers alternate throughout the one-hour show, playing two songs each.
Warner sets up each song with a quick conversation.
The chats are as much as part of City Limits Live as the performances. They can be heady – delving into intricacies of the songwriting process or meaning of a particular song – or fun. Mostly, they give insight into the minds and personalities of the artists. Like Parrish’s admission about the biggest change in his life since his stint on NBC’s show “The Voice.”
“Now, I don’t have to buy my own underwear.”
The joke got a big laugh from the crowd and showed Parris’ knack for holding an audience, both with his booming voice, which easily filled the K Jewel studio, and his personality. His performance came off with a down-home humbleness that brings to mind Chris Isaak’s on stage banter.
As appropriate for this kind of event, one waits for the performers to join together in a City Limits jam session.
It’s not something that always happens, Warner says, though the very first City Limits event did end with the four performing, trading verses on “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
December’s showcase ended with Jonathan Sterling playing an extra song at the audience’s behest. Parris joined in on guitar, playing impromptu guitar leads. The song was an encore for the night and was followed by the audience joining in for a sing along of “Auld Lang Syne;” it being so close to the New Year.
So far, each performance has recorded and archived for future use.
Some of the songs will be part of a Sunday afternoon radio show Warner is hosting on K-Jewel. Producer Marc Blake has made some of the footage available in quick snippets online. Once there is enough video footage, he will piece the performances together and try to sell the idea as a live television show, he says.
Think Austin City Limits comes to downtown Fresno.
“We’re legalizing art in this town by making enough noise, literally,” Blake says.
City Limits Live
- 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26
- Jewel FM, 1415 Fulton St.
- Free, all ages