Friday, September 14, 2012

Vicci Martinez ala Steve Vai

Acoustic Vision

Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon an artist that really speaks to me. Such was the case last weekend. My brother had given me a pair of 4th row tickets for my birthday to see Steve Vai at the Morristown PAC. And while I can spend all night talking about how awesomely awesome Steve Vai is, and yes, my bro for getting me the sweet seats- (you rock Keith!), as a music connoisseur I am obliged to tell you about the opening act. But first an admission of guilt.

I pride myself on finding those little known bands and musicians that always seem to find their way into the “Obscuria” bin at the local music boutique. But in this case I may be a bit late to the proverbial party. Some of you may have already heard about Vicci Martinez and will undoubtedly roll your eyes in disdain for my late entry. Go ahead… Give me your best “Really? That’s so last year.” But for the rest of you, I offer the following.

Setting the Seen

Before I took my seat I glanced around the theater to see how many people were interested in hearing the opening act. As I scanned the audience, I noticed that New Jersey’s own Eddie Trunk was standing directly behind me talking with someone. I gave him a nod acceding to his local and now-national (thanks to “That Metal Show”) notoriety. And he was kind enough to wave back and smile unwittingly acknowledging my severe lack of notoriety. But it was good to see him at such a small venue and even better to see that he stayed to watch the opener.

OK- So the common thinking is that the major label bands will choose an opening act that is musically similar to their own style and therefore should get the audience warmed up for the “real deal”. Right? Not so fast Sammy. We’re talking about Steve Vai here. It’s a well known fact that he is an alien. No…he is an Alien Guitar God. And therefore you can not expect him to adhere to normal standards. Enter Vicci Martinez.

Vicci took the stage and as she picked up her acoustic guitar she announced that she was filling in for someone that night. Who it was I couldn't say. I don’t remember and I don’t care. Because as soon as she started to play I instantly became fixated on her style and musicianship. As a guitarist, I tend to focus on chord selection and progression (among other things) while a musician is playing. And Vicci was hitting all the right chords. She opened with a song called “Come Along” which was a subtle invitation for the audience to follow Vicci on her short opening act journey. (FYI…We’re going to revisit this song in a bit)

If you’re into the whole acoustic singer-song writer thang, there’s no doubt you can relate to the intimate setting that can only be offered by a small venue. You’re not just listening to music. You are feeling it. It’s that soft reverb that is rendered by the natural acoustics of the theater. It’s that focus that helps amplify the resonance or dissonance in each chord. Having said that, nearly thirty seconds into Vicci’s set I leaned into my brother and said, “Ga-damn. She’s good!” OK. She’s got my attention now. And I have to say that she just got better with each song that followed. Her set included: Come Along, Jolene, Touch That Fire, In Dreams and she finished with a song called Enjoy the Ride. So Vicci had a total of 5 songs to reel me in and that’s exactly what she did. Each song showed a passion for her music and a love for her need to perform. And what can I say? The girl can sing. There is no doubt about it.

Here's a link to "Touch That Fire" as she performed it that night....

After the show I had a chance to meet with Vicci and talk about her young career and passion for music. We talked about how she got her start in music and then quickly moved into philosophy, her deep seated need to “…get out what I feel inside” and performing. She said, “I love writing about things that really move me. I have a burning desire to share these things and I hope that I can connect with my audience on some level”.  And connect she did. Her love of music came shinning through helping her to deliver on her invitation to “Come Along”.

What Is and What Should Never Be

Vicci turned down an invitation to appear on American Idle after winning the regional tryouts. She then moved on with an appearance on Star Search in 2003 and finished 3rd overall in 2005 for her efforts on “The Voice”. Which if you ask me, although I did not see her on The Voice, I could state with 100% accuracy that the judges got it wrong. I am sure that whoever may have won that year is off to a great start in music making cookie cutter crap that the record executives just adore. My contempt for these shows is well known. I am not suggesting that are not talented people on these shows. They are in my opinion, incredibly talented people who are merely fodder for the big record companies.

Rock n Roll Baby

I picked up a copy of Vicci’s latest CD simply called Vicci (which she was nice to sign for me) and promised I would do a review. Vicci Martinez is an extremely talented musician whose lyrics are deeply rooted in emotion and conviction. She has a strong musical background that, on first glance, would tie her directly into a singer/song writer lineage. But Vicci shows that there are a few more layers to her in this new CD.  

After hearing her perform the very powerful “Touch That Fire” in an acoustic setting on stage, I was very impressed with a broader version that included her full band with an R&B slant. With this release, Vicci Martinez is making great strides into both the pop and R&B arenas. With a voice that reaches down into your soul, there is no doubt that she will go far. Give one listen to “Let Go” and you will see what I mean.

There is an edge to this CD that is hard to define. Vicci makes use of great guitar licks and some infectious grooves that command you to move. Listing to “I Want Your Kiss” actually forces you out of your seat. And that’s a difficult task for me!

If you are into more of the Singer/Song Writer aspects of her music, I would suggest you pick up Vicci’s 2005 effort called “On My Way”. You'll get a good idea of Vicci's musicianship and guitar playing. It’s a great CD that has taken over my iPod. I highly recommend it.