Two weeks ago, I walked into the newest, legitimate live music venue in my neighborhood, Avondale Town Cinema. It’s a fantastically unique, old movie theater that has recently been converted into a live music venue and bar. Like most things in the Avondale neighborhood (as opposed to its neighboring city, Decatur, GA), there wasn’t much buzz within the community about its opening, in spite of the fact that people had been talking about how cool it would be to see someone finally do something with it after all this time.
Nevertheless, I was determined to check it out for myself. So on Thursday, July 7, I finally took the opportunity. I wandered in completely blindly, having no idea who was performing, and without looking at the giant marquis out front, I was able to see a list of the night’s bands on a chalkboard sign right outside the entrance. “Victoria Canal.” Neva’ hoid of her!
The entry foyer was an interesting hodgepodge of mix n’ match styles, it would turn out didn’t match the rest of the interior styles I would discover. Minus the old piano, and the bluetooth speaker playing unrecognizable music, it felt hard to imagine I had just walked into a music venue.
I paid the $10 cover (which the door guy, a local yokel, was able to take via credit card) and made my way toward the source of the sound I could begin to hear as I headed down the hallway leading toward the bar.
The bar is an entirely separate room, brightly lamp lit, and complete with a variety of different types of seat options including bar stools, love seats, armchairs, and folding chairs. On the far wall opposite the bar, is an opening in the wall, approximately 4′ high and 8-10′ wide, looking out into the music room, providing you with a view slightly left of center stage, at best.
The bar has a decent variety of domestic shit beer, local craft, and even some international phenoms, bottles and cans only, no draft. They do have a fairly well stocked selection of liquor, but virtually no ability to make cocktails other than cans of soda and seltzer.
They also have no food, with the exception of some steamer pots they fill with a variety of frozen finger foods on Friday and Saturday nights.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “this all sounds quite strange and interesting,” yes, exactly! VERY strange and interesting. Not at all what I expected.
After I had adjusted to the strange and interesting surroundings, made my bottled beer selection, and settled into the environment a little, I finally had a chance to notice the band performing on the other side of the 4’x10′ window I was peering through.
The first thing I noticed was how tolerable the overall volume level was. I could easily communicate with the bartender, who would often speak back to me at a normal volume level, making me uncomfortable that the band could actually hear her from the stage between songs when there was no volume.
Because the sound was so tolerably not loud, it was also incredibly clear and well mixed. I could hear every single thing each of the 4 members of the band was doing on their respective instruments. The guitar player had great tone, and a mastery of his pedals to get the exact perfect volume when switching back and forth between his lead and rhythm tones.
Then I started noticing the drums. The drummer was super solid; a very good, dynamic drummer, which for those of you who don’t know, drummers are notoriously awful at dynamics. He never overplayed, just played exactly what was called for. All of the above almost made me forgive how horrible his drums actually sounded because he clearly had no idea how to tune them (YES, drums need to be tuned as well).
The bass player was stage left, which places him to my right, slightly blocked by the end of the opening in the wall in front of me, but I have no problem hearing his clean tone, and solid chops.
“Okay,” this doesn’t suck. Let’s continue,” I think to myself, as I finally turn my attention to the lead singer. She’s a female lady lead singer, I notice right away. Can’t get anything passed me 🙂
She plays the piano. She has very dark hair, and she sings in falsetto a LOT. She doesn’t suck. She talks a little too much between songs, but she also smiles and laughs a lot. She is stupid cute. And not like annoyingly, cutesy cute, but just the right amount of humble and genuine cute. She makes me believe she’s really enjoying herself up there.
Another song ends. Again, she tells too long of a story about what the song we’re about to hear is all about. It starts with an anecdote about stealing the first line from the name of a book she once wrote, and how it made no sense in the context of the book, but she loved the title so much, she wanted to work it into a song.
“Tell the wolves I’m home.” It’s not exactly Poe, but I’m listening…
She goes on to explain that the song is about trying to rise above a society that judges people so harshly on physical appearances, and how she was tired of being made to feel a certain way about herself based only on how she looked.
In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “how can I take this chick seriously right now? She’s way too cute to get away with a song like this. I’m not buying it. The world is her oyster.” And as the song arrived at its meat and potatoes, bearing in mind I had been in this room watching this band for about 25 minutes at this point, I finally noticed…there’s something different about her right arm.
What was different, is that her right arm ends just below her elbow. But…how is she playing the piano like that? I honestly still don’t know. During the course of the rest of the show, I spent more time than I’d care to admit trying to figure out how it was possible for her to be making so much sound come out of a piano with essentially only 6 fingers. I never figured it out.
There were two entire songs where the rest of the band left the stage, and it was just her and a piano. I swear on everything I’ve ever known and loved about music that had I not been able to see with my own eyes that she didn’t have a right hand, I would have never believed that the person playing that piano could possibly not.
I was literally blown away. And it only got better from there.
“City Shoes” is a song Victoria explains as being about an attempt to ease the pain of loss by replacing the loss with “stuff,” only to find out that the stuff only reminds you of the loss. It is an absolutely amazing song, and it was when I finally decided Victoria is also an unbelievably amazing singer. Like, unbelievable. Seriously.
Still not convinced? Me neither. I was still choosing to focus all my attention on the lack of polish on her rapport with the audience, and how much time she spent talking between songs. I refused to let this no-name chick win me over on my first trip to this random music venue. And then she said, “I was really hoping to be able to tour with Niko…” (her opener for the evening)…”but apparently you have to be 25 to do that, and I’m only 17, so…”
I’m sorry, what did you just say? You’re Seven-fucking-teen? Now I REALLY HATE you! Only I didn’t. I was secretly hooked, and could not get enough of the inspiration she instilled in me. It was infectious, and I immediately wanted to help her spread it to all of the world.
And it keeps getting better. After the show, I introduced myself and told her I wanted to buy a cd. During the course of our conversation, I came to realize, she is Spanish, as in, from Spain, as in, doesn’t live in the US. “But you have no accent at all?” I asked her. “My mother is American, and I went to an American school all my life over there.”
How utterly and thoroughly fascinating. Here is this totes adorbs, 17-year-old Spanish girl who sings like a middle-aged, black soul singer, and plays the piano like a freaking classical musician in spite of the fact that she’s only got one hand. And she also happens to be a better songwriter than the vast majority of people out there trying to do it right now. All I can think of in that moment is, I wish I had all of the monies so that I could just give it all to her to go keep being awesome!
Unfortunately for us both, I don’t have all the monies. I barely even have some of the monies. What I do have is a boat load of experience in the music business, and a new found inspiration to put it to good use.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you all to my new favorite unsigned artist in the entire world, Victoria Canal.
Please take a moment to check out her music on Spotify, or if you’d rather get a dose of her totes adorbsness, peruse through her Youtube channel. I’m certain you will be moved by her limitless talent in the same way that I am. Enjoy!