There are a lot of singer/songwriters. Let me rephrase that: there are a lot of singer/songwriters just within the radius of Boulder-Denver, Colorado.
If you’re not into the singer/songwriter thing, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, please continue:
Me, well, I have a visceral experience listening to singer/songwriters tell stories and pour their hearts out in black and blue. But, there’s a fine line demarcating a good singer/songwriter. Don’t worry! I’m not about to criticize or bash anyone. That line is for you to draw, depending on what you prefer; what makes your ears perk and your soul vibrate. As for me, I like to keep a wide periphery and experience the journey a musician or a band will take you on. So, naturally, two weekends ago when I went to The Walnut Room in Denver with singer/songwriter Paul Kimbiris to hear him and five other musicians play for an attentive audience, I was very pleased by the variety of sounds and experiences each artist brought onstage. The event, titled “Under the Radar: Singer/Songwriters You Should be Listening To,” was put together by HomeVibe, a production company specializing in high quality intimate shows that take on a living room feel. And let me tell yah, that it did.
I hitched a ride with Paul down to The Walnut Room, since we both live in Boulder, and used it as an opportunity to mine his brain for an inside scoop of a singer/songwriter. It wasn’t the easiest task.
“I think about a lot of dark stuff,” Paul said.
His last album The Dark Side of Pearl was released in 2014. It is dark; rather melancholy at times but definitely heartfelt. If you want to read a review on it, you can here, but you really should just listen to it and judge for yourself. The latest Kimbiris news is, however, that Paul has an upcoming EP to be released this spring/summer. And it’s going to be different than his last work.
“I don’t wanna be a downer. It feels good to make people dance.” he told me.
This EP will be more upbeat and rock and roll. Paul likened it to Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone,” saying, “it’s a lively tune with a rather dark message.”
Immersed in conversation, Paul missed our exit off Hwy 36 that was to take us straight to the venue.
“We’re actually going to Mexico. I know I told you we’d be going to see some music, but really, we’re just flying out to Mexico. You got your passport, right?” he joked. I wish.
Paul’s been living in Boulder for several years now. He is originally from Greece but grew up in Philly. He has a home in Greece, and he plans to take advantage of that this summer by flying there and playing some music.
“I feel like I’m missing out on life. I keep saying I want to do this and that, but then I just sit around and watch it all pass by. I should do more. I think I will.”
Paul mentions he’s also interested in setting up a tour, though he fears being on the road all by himself would send him too far down the rabbit hole. So, for now, Paul writes songs for TV shows and flies out to California to do the recordings, and that’s mainly how he gets his name out besides doing shows like the one at The Walnut Room.
Once we arrived at the venue, we were greeted with friendly, excited faces. In the green room, the energy was chill and supportive as performers warmed up with guitars in hand. Shortly after our arrival the first artist was up.
Jacob Russo was a bit of a version of Gregory Alan Isakov. I don’t really know what that means. That’s just the vibe I got. You know, the one that takes you to secret fairy gardens of magic and sparks…
Andy Palmer followed with a strong, powerful presence. My favorite part about his performance was when he laid down his guitar, picked up two copper mugs (Moscow Mules, anyone?), and sang poetry as he banged them together. This guy is rad.
Wes Cichosz closed the first set by wooing the crowd with his guitar skills, shredding the blues all over the place. He broke the pattern of the typical singer/songwriter by opening his set with fast-paced, finger-picking blues rock, which raised the vibe in the room a few notches. He is definitely a very talented artist, who also plays the sax.
It was time for a set break, so I continued to chat with Paul. He was opening the second set. I asked him if he gets nervous before he has to go up. He shook his head no, but I wasn’t convinced. He kept pacing around and seemed a bit restless. So I asked him a few questions about his history as a musician.
“I’ve been playing music for a long time. My first gigs were in college with a band I was the lead singer of. It was a great way to meet girls.”
But, according to Paul, he’s only become good enough to do his solo thing over the past few years. He got his affirmation to roll solo when some fellow respected singer/songwriters invited him to jam and open up for their gigs after seeing him play one of his early shows at Boulder’s Shine.
“I remember back when Shine first opened and I asked the managers to play a solo gig there, unsure if anyone was even going to listen. Then Gregory Isakov and friends showed up and liked my set enough to come up and tell me I got my pulse on something good.”
When I asked him where he gets inspiration to write, he responded with, “So many things inspire me to want to write music. Some are just everyday scenes of life, you know, like when you see the sun and sky reflected on a steel casket at a funeral. Happy things like that.” His dry humor is quite endearing.
Paul was up. He captivated the audience, accompanied onstage by Nina Fronjian on the violin and as backup vocals. She’s toured with Gregory Alan Isakov as part of the Ghost Orchestra, and Paul met her at one of Gregory’s shows backstage awhile back. As I listened to Paul’s raspy voice with his old Martin guitar in hand, the image of The Old Guitarist from Picasso’s blue period came to mind. That was the vibe and the experience of Paul’s set at The Walnut Room.
Dave Tamkin came up next, painting beautiful imagery with his guitar, while his voice projected passion and honesty. He’s originally from Chicago, but these days he lives in Boulder and is quite a prolific artist. He brought Wes onstage for one of the songs to play the sax and it was lovely.
Larry Nix, Denver’s recent import from Alabama, closed the evening with some pretty hardy country tunes. I think his intention was to transport you somewhere deep in the swamp lands of the South; he is quite the southern gentleman.
Overall, “Under the Radar” was a well-curated event, though they should have featured female singer/songwriters too. Other than that, the experience was enjoyable and satiating. So humble readers, if you’re into singer/songwriters and want to delight in some local artists, then you should keep an eye out for these fellas playing around town. They’re totally worth your trip.
Paul’s next show is in Boulder at the Bohemian Biergarten on Friday, January 27th. Details here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.