Last night, American singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson performed live at The Barns at Wolf Trap, a beautifully rustic venue that I’ve come to love. In fact, I’ll admit I was not too familiar with Hutchinson’s work, but the mere fact that his performance would be held at the Barns was enough to entice me to offer to review it– and I’m thrilled that I did! Hutchinson and his opener, Anya Marina, delivered a highly enjoyable evening, and the acoustics and technical elements were ever the professional, state-of-the-art quality that I have come to expect from this venue.
With simple blue lighting as a backdrop, the stage held nothing but a keyboard and an acoustic guitar. The Barns is a fairly intimate space, which leaves the artists free to really connect with their audience. Anya Marina did just that as she took the stage and started chatting with those closest to the stage, asking them their names and questions about their lives. The crowd warmed to her quickly with her funny anecdotes, my favorite being how she was honored to be asked to write a song for the movie Twilight: New Moon, and made a huge deal about it…only to have it played for a nanosecond in the film (“but I got to pay my car off, so that was good,” she says.) That song is called “Satellite Heart,” and it is particularly moving.
Her indie-rock songs themselves were lovely, sung with a breathy voice and style that reminded me much of the artist Jewel. “Give Me Resurrection” and “Ordinary Dude” were numbers that Eric Hutchinson helped her write, and were received nicely by the crowd. Her performance was engaging and fun, but what made it really special was her cover of T.I’s “Whatever You Like.” This is a hip-hop hit often played in nightclubs, but Anya turned it into a love ballad…which was both absolutely hilarious and genuinely enjoyable.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, she threw a chorus from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” into the song. When one imagines an indie performance from a beautiful solo artist, they would not expect to laugh so much! Ana was a lovely and welcome surprise, and I’ll admit to the fact that I enjoyed her performance more than the headliner.
Which is not to say that Eric Hutchinson did not put on a fantastic show, because he did. Equally playful with the audience (“that was a half-hearted applause if I ever heard one,” he teasingly told them as he took the stage) he won over the small crowd with funny stories and masterful keyboard and guitar skills. A fusion of pop, rock, and folk music, his songs ranged from silly (“Forget About Joanie” is a song about being in love with a lesbian bartender) to fast and upbeat, getting the crowd up and dancing with songs like “Food Chain” and “Like I Love You.”
The songs that received the most applause were his two hits, “Rock & Roll” and “Watching You Watch Him,” which he admits was inspired by his wife’s borderline-obsessive fascination with pro-athlete Roger Federer.
The best song was “Gotta Have Faith,” which was sung so enthusiastically that at one point he stopped and said, “that was the best part!”and repeated the line he had just sang. Twice. By then, nearly everyone in the barn was up and dancing.
Overall, the night began as an intimate gathering that stirred up into a slow boil. Between numbers, Hutchinson kept up a friendly discourse with the audience. At one point he teased us, saying we were all “crazy” to come out to a live music show on a Wednesday night. This show, however, was more than worth it. I highly recommend The Barns at Wolf Trap for an evening out!
Running Time: Approximately two hours, without an intermission.