Published: April, 2008, West Coast Performer Magazine

Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights / Correatown / The Speakers
Hemlock Tavern
San Francisco, CA
February 3, 2008

A Sunday night can be a hard night to pack in a crowd - especially for an out-of-towner. But early this February, San Francisco's Hemlock Tavern saw a decent-sized audience stuff into its cozy performance space not for the local headliner, but the visiting support.

Early attendees got some backbeat for their time from Portland-based Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights. With two additional members in tow since the band's last area appearance in October - trumpeter Daniel Adlaf and Ben Landsverk on viola - a more fleshed-out treatment of Robley's songs was possible. The tight vocal harmonies that closed "A Vague Notion of Nothing Much" were a particular highlight of the set, while Robley's playful request of the audience to help him name a new song, and the subsequent naming of the song "Bat With One Eye" by an enthusiastic attendee, was its most engaging moment. Robley kept his eyes closed during most of the songs, and the general focus of his band's performance was on the music and the musicianship instead of the performers themselves. It was refreshing to see a band so caught up in the moment on stage, and though Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights were openers by definition, they didn't act like it.

The crowd had substantially grown by the time Angela Correa, a.k.a. Correatown, took the stage. Hailing from L.A.'s Echo Park, the solo Correa picked and strummed her acoustic guitar while singing in a clear, flawless voice. There may have been a lot of sad reminiscences in her lyrics, but Correa herself was charmingly upbeat and engaging, frequently chatting between songs. During her second tune, she even paused to playfully comment on the audience members kicking around a red balloon. Correa made sure to bring her bubbly personality out musically with "Fascination," receiving some rhythmic help from the crowd in the form of handclaps and foot stomps. She later pulled out a stylized cover of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," in which she tweaked the melody to suit her sultry, polished vocals, which are equal parts Mary Lou Lord and Norah Jones.

San Francisco's The Speakers closed the night, their music far removed in style from Robley's intricately arranged songs and Correa's commanding confidence. The duo of Brian Miller and Peter Musselman, on guitar and accordion respectively, presented a low-key program of quiet, unassuming indie-folk tunes in a hushed manner, like a lullaby for the evening. Though the energy emanating from the stage was modest, it still inspired a few people in the thinned-out audience to dance playfully along during one song. Musselman's accordion occasionally drowned out Miller's vocals, but the uber-mellow mood was never once altered throughout the course of the duo's simple, enchanting set.

-Review by Michael Fortes; photo by April Chick


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