The Bootleg is tucked away unexpectedly on the street, looking more like a dive bar from the outside than a venue. With iridescent purple light covering the inside of the venue, the air was slightly off kilter, but with exciting flutter. The small, but open room felt more like everyone was at a house party, an intimidate yet low-key setting.
The opener, KaiL Baxley, looked like a modern day cowboy, sort of. His suit certainly didn’t harken back to the stuff of Westerns, but his hardened face had the weathered look of man on the frontier. His deep voice took its time to settle in slowly, attentive to each moment individually. Such insistence is hard work, but it was a night full of the strides that look and feel effortless.
When Marlon Williams took to the stage, he instantaneously captivated the audience with his full vibrato and steady gaze. Dressed to the nines in a suit and bowtie with hair down to his shoulders, he was at once dapper and unaffected. In spite of still being early on in his career, he appeared totally at home on stage, tossing out quips at moments throughout the set and engaging the audience at each turn.
Interspersed between his own original songs, William explored the historical terrain of musical influences, from bluegrass to honky-tonk, with care and awareness of their legacy, if eventually turning them on their heads. A standout example was his tune “Cocaine”, a comical disruption of genre tropes.
Williams especially excelled as a storyteller. One of the first songs of the night, “Lonely Side of Her”, made for a Williams specific gaze into love – unflinchingly insightful, touched by a tinge of darkness, and featuring his penchant for finger work. The most spectacular of the night was ”Dark Child”. Well crafted and insistently haunting, the song’s internal tension built to a point that the band members intuitively and rightly riffed off of, building out an already complex emotional rollercoaster.
When the night was at its end, the crowd seemed to hang around in a daze – sure they seen something special. His incredible and unique voice, reminiscent of Elvis, is certainly one to keep an ear out for. Watch out for his self-titled debut solo album on February 19, 2016 via Dead Oceans!
Written by Nina Leonard
OurVinyl | Contributor