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Thomas Kivi CD Release and Communist Daughter at the Fine Line, 02/04/2011

In a music industry plagued with vapid smoke and mirrors gimmicks, rampant pretension, and ludicrously tight pants accompanied by laughably large sunglasses worn indoors -- i.e. the Superbowl Halftime Show -- it is refreshing to see musicians that take pride in honest songcraft.

On Friday night at the Fine Line Music Cafe a bright-eyed songwriter fresh off an ambitious European tour celebrated the release of his debut album, but before I delve into that, I must comment on Communist Daughter.

The local favorites made their first appearance in many months to close out the night, and the seven-piece absolutely commanded the stage hitting every song you would hope to hear from Soundtrack to the End as well as their rendition of "Golden Slumbers" that currently dominates the Current's weekly chart show. Their dynamic swells were exhilarating, and their vocal harmonies pulled the heart-strings of an attentive crowd. Their set alone was easily worth the price of admission, but this night wasn't about them. The night belonged to a young folksman by the name of Thomas Kivi.

Thomas Kivi CD Release and Communist Daughter at the Fine Line, 02/04/2011
Thomas Kivi CD Release and Communist Daughter at the Fine Line, 02/04/2011
Thomas Kivi CD Release and Communist Daughter at the Fine Line, 02/04/2011

The native Wisconsinite disarmingly climbed the stairs and took the spotlight in front of his mammoth-sized band. A right-handed guitar hung upside down around his neck. He appeared to be somewhat nervous, but that made him all the more charming. Kivi had nothing to hide, nor did he need to. His friendly appearance and unassuming nature made his story telling incredibly engaging. Kivi's left hand began finger picking the opening number, and the band revealed itself in layers. There is an odd familiarity in Kivi's voice. His youthful yet weathered tone falls kindly on the ear as he unravels his homespun lyrics. I couldn't help but pay close attention.

Earlier that evening, I was informed by Kivi's manager that a surprise would be unleashed at some point during the show. When the folk ensemble dipped into the Hank Williams songbook I had assumed the much awaited curve ball had been revealed, and the thought of anymore bombshells occurring immediately disappeared.

Sarah Pray provided elegant attunement as Kivi meandered through various tracks on Crying Child such as the slow building "Stained Glass," the somber "Bridalveil Falls," and the twangy title track "Crying Child," and then at the climax of the setlist, just when I absolutely should have been expecting it... it happened. The unforeseen whammy appeared in the form of a countrified cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry," and yes, it was just as awesome as it sounds.

Perhaps there is something that just irks me about the Fine Line but everything about this performance had me longing to see Kivi in an different environment. An environment far away from glitzy lights and awkward room geometry. Perhaps a house show or a living room concert. A place that I could put my feet up and ponder, because a gifted writer creates music that provokes you to think about your own life, and I can safely say I did that several times that night.

Thomas Kivi and Sarah Pray
Thomas Kivi and Sarah Pray

Critic's Bias: As fellow left-handed musician and folk enthusiast, I have to tip my hat to Mr. Kivi.
The Crowd: A healthy number of Communist Daughter fans and plaid covered twenty-somethings.
Overheard In The Crowd: "You ever notice how it's impossible to smile and whistle at the same time? I think it's ironic that whistling always makes me smile."
Random Notebook Dump: Although the gentlemen were not local, Brighton, MA played an amazingly tight set. Fans of Wilco would be wise to check them out.


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