This show was close to my heart, as my own baby boy, Alex Coleman, is Tom Esch’s drummer. Esch booked this gig as a celebration of his recovery from depression, and the band wore matching black shirts with a white music note and red cross emblazoned across the chest. Originally, the show was supposed to be a five band extravaganza, and although only three bands ended up performing, the night did not disappoint.
The first act, Carly OMFG, was a bit of a surprise comedy musical act. Clearly a theater nerd in high school (or at least theatrically trained), her voice was wonderfully clear and poignant. Her songs, even more so. Her songs were short and sweet — mostly about break-ups — and included wonderful lyrics such as “oh shit, you’re hot now” and “no one really thinks she’s funny, but said she’d make a great playboy bunny.” A wonderful performer, she introduced almost all of her songs with an anecdote about how they were written, kept things light, and sounded even better live than on her YouTube channel.
Next up was Intisaar, a female duo consisting of a cellist and guitarist/vocalist (although they said they normally have a drummer, too). Probably my favorite act of the night (sorry, Tom!), they shined. Granted, I haven’t seen that many cellists perform up close, but I’d be hard pressed to find any musician at all that comes close to the expression of Natalie Mai Hall. Between her facial expressions, body movements, and flat out skill, I wasn’t sure if she was actually playing a cello or if her brain waves just created that sound.
The best way I can describe the vocalist, Intisaar Jubran, is unexpected. Wearing black heels, black jeans, and a black tunic/dress/thing, when I saw her, she kind of reminded me of my middle-school self, who always forced herself to get up and perform but never actually thought she was good. I sensed a little of that in Jubran — she hit her guitar mic accidentally multiple times — but most of it floated away the second she started playing. Her voice was buttery; her playing (minus the technical difficulties) was mesmerizing, and her whole vibe allowed for it to really be a duo, as opposed to just the Intisaar show.
This show managed to be cohesive although it was all over the place genre-wise: Carly OMFG as theatrical comedy, Intisaar as folk-rock-pop-alt (?), and, come the main act, Tom Esch as plain old rock n’ roll (a la Red Hot Chili Peppers).
Esch set himself up well to be the main act; while the first two acts were incredible, they were also much quieter than the finale. Esch and his band came out strong, filling the venue with their hard-hitting rock sound. They drew a crowd to the stage, and everyone seemed very immersed in the show, dancing and singing along.
Obviously I’m biased, but the standout for me was Alex Coleman, the drummer. I attended the show with a friend of mine and Alex’s (Laura), and a woman sitting behind Laura began asking her questions about where Alex got his musical training and complimented his skills. What more could a proud Dan want?
Ultimately, this show was a testament to Tom’s skills, not only as a performer and musician, but as a booker, organizer, and, most importantly, as a human being overcoming a mental struggle. Cheers to that.