all photos by author.
As a photographer, I’ve never had band management ask me to check on a venue’s photography policy. But when Tim Reynolds publicist sent an email asking me to check on the photo policy for Blues Alley in Georgetown, I hopped on the phone.
“Yes, I’m a photographer and I’m scheduled to shoot the Tim Reynolds show you have coming up. What’s your photo policy?”
“We have no photo policy.”
“Oh, ok. So I’m good to go, anything else?”
“No, it’s a ‘no photo policy.’ We don’t allow photos at all.”
“But you can shoot the soundcheck if it’s okay with Tim’s management.”
I arrived at Blues Alley early in the afternoon on Friday, April 1st and waited…and waited…and waited some more. Apparently Tim was coming down from the NJ area and had hit awful traffic on 495. Having never been to Blues Alley before, I had plenty of time to take in the atmosphere and I really liked what I found. It is exactly what I’d picture a small jazz club to be in the 40’s and 50’s with very dim lighting, very small tables, exposed brick walls and low ceilings. It’s an intimate venue and I really enjoyed it. The staff was friendly and accommodating and I plan on going back in the future.
Scheduled to play two shows that evening, Tim arrived at 5:45, or about 15 minutes before doors were supposed to open for the 8pm show. Playing a solo acoustic set, Tim was accompanied by his road manager, Fluffy, and a two other guys who were selling merchandise. Tim carried in his guitars, his guitar stands and his pedal boards and set everything up by himself. I’ve shot a lot of bands from local, regional and international acts and to see someone who is pretty well known setting up his own equipment is an interesting experience. Reynolds barely uttered a word to anyone as he wasted no time in unpacking his gear and setting everything up. Moreover, he didn’t really seem to mind doing it. Two guitars, two pedal boards and 15 minutes later the soundcheck started and I began to snap away.
For me, it wasn’t that much different than shooting a concert, except I had more access than I normally do. Seeing Reynolds warming up during his soundcheck was a sight to behold as he played bits and pieces of his songs effortlessly. He’s so talented that it’s the only way I can think to describe how he comes across when he plays. The other thing I noticed is that he seems to zone out when he plays quickly; he doesn’t look at his hands, he doesn’t look at his guitar, he just stares ahead and seems to go to another place when he plays.
The soundcheck lasted for about 15 minutes and Reynolds went up to the green room while I posted up at a table in the corner and ordered dinner. The crowd filed in and before long Blues Alley was packed. It was an interesting crowd, I expected a lot of younger people who would look like Dave Matthews fans, but it was a mix of older people who could pass for your grandparents, middle aged people and some teenagers. At 8 o’clock, Tim promptly came downstairs, took the stage and the show began.
He started his show with a song consisting of a lot of pedal work which allowed his acoustic guitar to almost sound like a sitar. I think best thing about his whole performance is the tones and emotions that Reynolds is able to coax from his instrument. Throughout the night the mood changed from bright and happy to dark and grim. In this intro, the tones were warm, the tempo was slow and it could lull you to sleep.
Reynolds followed the intro with a song called “Hopeful Heresy” an upbeat song with cheerful tones. One thing I tried to determine throughout the night is what kind of style you could categorize his music. Is it classical guitar? Blues? Funk? Rock? He certainly seems to borrow from all these styles and mixes it together. I can’t tell you what kind of music he plays because it transcends categories; it’s just damn good and impressive.
The highlight of the performance was about halfway through when Reynolds played a song called “Sinceritox,” a song you might hear in a Western movie when the gunslingers are riding into town and looking for a battle. He followed that song up with “Ancestors,” a song with an intense, driving beat which matched well with his vocals. Tim only sang on about 3 or 4 songs throughout the night but the more I listen to his voice the more it grows on me. As the song wound down and the crowd began it’s applause, Reynolds cut them off by launching into a furious, frantic solo that only got faster and faster. For me, it was the pinnacle of the night as I can’t recall seeing anyone play that fast before and Reynolds did it in his effortless fashion. I don’t think he played a bad note the entire night. He just doesn’t miss.
After a few more songs, Reynolds emptied out his bag of tricks on a 5 minute that consisted of different sound effects. He’d play a few notes, then quickly bend over and reach down to play with the dials and knobs on his pedal board, creating a soundscape that you might find in a Pink Floyd album. By the end of it, nothing sounded like an acoustic guitar as there were different echoes and sounds ricocheting all around the club. A few people stood up to see what Reynolds was doing as he was hunched over his pedal boards while he was creating his sounds. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before and he ended the song with a wry smile.
What an amazing night and an amazing show! I said similar things in my review of last months TR3 (Reynolds’ full band) performance, but he is an absolute guitar master. After seeing him in an acoustic solo environment I’m even more convinced that there’s nothing he can’t do on a guitar. If you want to get a feeling for what this show was like, I suggest you pick up “The Limbic System,” his 2010 double disc acoustic release.