A while back on our trip down to Charlottesville, the Boy and I were listening to the streaming music in his car, and the station that I like best of the ones he listens to is called “Nicole Atkins Radio”. Like many other streaming services, it’s built in such a way that the system tries to play music like a particular artist, song, or style, and in this case, Nicole Atkins is a lounge-singer/old-fashioned crooner type who also happens to be a hipster musician who has worked with another band that the Boy likes, and that’s how he heard about her. I have thoroughly enjoyed her music, and so as we drove, we were talking and he said how he wished he could see her live, and I said, “That’s a show I would actually enjoy going to!” And he was stunned (because so many of his preferred acts are not ones that I would voluntarily return to just because they’re not for me and I recognize that. So he hopped on his phone and discovered that she would be in town in a little over a month, and tickets were cheap.
The only snag in this plan being that the venue wasn’t in DC, but further out, past where my parents live, and so would feel like a ridiculous long drive back and forth to the venue for us and then also for my mom if she were to babysit little B. So we struck upon this amazing idea that we would just spend the night with them, B could go to sleep at their house, and everything would work out well, apart from having to get up extra early the next morning, but you know – baby – so it’s not like we wouldn’t already be up anyways. My parents agreed to the plan, and so we were set!
We got the Barns early because we wanted a chance to eat before the show. The menu at the venue (hahaha) was actually not bad. The Boy had grilled cheese and tomato soup (which wasn’t particularly fancy, but warm and tasty), and I had a turkey-apple-brie sandwich that could have used more brie, but that’s just my opinion. There was a decent selection of beers on draft, and lots of seating. I wish I had taken pictures of the food for you, but c’est la vie. You guys know what sandwiches and beer are supposed to look like, and this was just that. Tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The venue itself is two old barns that have been brought together and turned into a venue. One barn is the coat check, dining, bar, etc. The other barn is larger, and has the stage and seating. It’s still an intimate venue, seating no more than 400 total, including about 1/4 of the audience in a converted hayloft (which is relatively close to the stage). For smaller acts, or just more up-close-and-personal performances, this type of setup is perfect. Since Nicole is well-known, but not a famously-famous singer, it’s the perfect kind of setting. It’s also nice that the acoustics are really good.
Nicole’s opening act/backing band was The Pollies – a group from Alabama that did the kind of mellow and experimental rock and roll that was perhaps not in the wheelhouse for many of the older attendees in the audience. At the same time, they weren’t trying to get everyone up and headbanging, so it was a good balance that probably forced a lot of people to the edge of their comfort zone. The Pollies were great, and while I’m not likely to go looking for them again (just since I’m not the kind of person who makes a crazy effort to go see lots of live music), if you are that kind of person, and they’re in your neck of the woods, I would highly recommned seeing them, if only so you too can witness Bassist Spencer’s amazing sideburns.
And then there was the highlight of the evening – Nicole Atkins herself. I felt really with it since I did know many, if not all of the songs she played. And it being such a small venue with less prominent acts, you got to see some of the behind-the-scenes type of goings on, like Nicole asking for mics/speakers to get turned off, bottles of water being forgotten on stage, etc. It also felt like she told a short story for each of the songs on her playlist, and it made the evening feel that much closer, and like a private concert. It did help that we had really good seats (second row!) and so had the pleasure of seeing her up close, and also being right next to her when she came down into the audience to sing her encore.
It was just such a cozy and intimate event that it felt like it was happening just for us. And the venue being so close to my parents house, we were able to get home fairly quickly after the show, meaning that even with going out for a date night, I could still get back and do my pre-bedtime routine of getting B’s things together for daycare. The point is, if you have the chance to see Nicole on tour, or if you can see a show out at the Barns at Wolf Trap, you should do either or both. In the meantime, enjoy this music video of Nicole’s, and just marvel at her voice.