Friday night Chris Koza celebrated his new release called Sleepwalkers Part 1 at the charming Parkway Theater. The concept of the album is how “realities are constructed from the blurring collage of dreams, memories, truths, fictions, desires, and predictions.” The venue is a fitting place for this release, as it has housed so many things over the years.
“I chose the Parkway for my new album release in part because of its historic charm and decor. I also like the idea of a really cool music venue in the heart of an unassuming neighborhood where one might not expect to find such an oasis,” states Chris Koza.
The evening featured a carousel of talent, starting with improv masters Joy Dolo and John Gebretatose. Providing humor, witty banter, and even a crowd participation game, Joy and John seamlessly entertained the audience through each transition.
Experimental pop artist Diane Miller kicked off the music with a short set. Described by critics as “unexpected” and “inspirational,” Diane experienced both of those things within the first song when she lost power to her keyboard. She pivoted quickly and handled the moment like a pro. Her engaging voice and poetic vocals shown through in the end and provided a small taste of her talent.
Next to the stage were folk-pop duo The Twins of Franklin. They started the set with a stripped down version of “What’s the Point.” Settling into the stage, sans heels, friends Becky Shaheen and Laura Lou took full advantage of the attentive audience. Highlighted by a powerful performance of a new song, The Twins belted “Be Kind to Yourself,” which echoed throughout the venue. It was a heart-stopping moment and definitely one that got the crowd murmuring in admiration. They ended with their single “The Rope,” easily showcasing their tight harmonies and storytelling. Expect more music and attention paid to these ladies in the coming months.
Taking the stage with his full band, Chris Koza is no stranger to album release shows. With a catalog of over 10 albums (including Rogue Valley), Koza has been engaging people with his authentic stories and intricate songwriting for a long time.
This release has a special association with his older work and the venue. He explained his first album, Exit Pesce, was recorded across the street in an apartment while Koza ate peanut butter sandwiches without the crust. It’s been a long and thriving journey, and one to which everyone in attendance felt connected. It’s a testament to the power of song and ways we attach to a voice.
Starting the set with “Drown” and then “Sleepwalkers,” Koza then played The Current sponsored “Where We Go” track. Plunking keyboards and a lush guitar part had the crowd swaying. The theme of the song and lyrics perfectly framed the theme of the album.
where we go, where we go
I can’t explain the invisible ways
we’re all connected
where we go, where we go
our hearts in synch where they will always be
Scattered throughout the set were some of Koza’s personal favorites from the past. “Patterns,” “Handful of Glass,” and “Winning the Lottery” all warranted heavy applause from the crowd. Sitting close, you could hear pockets of quiet singalongs. “Hush,” one of the newer tracks, calmed everyone down. Koza’s silky, emotive voice works supremely well on the acoustic-based track. The guitar slivered around the vocals and added a nostalgic feel to the song. Thirty minutes into the set, The Twins of Franklin joined the band onstage to sing “Music to Me.” Their harmonies blended nicely with the band’s.
At just over an hour, “Man of Stone” had the audience dancing in their seats. Heavy drums, distorted guitars, and textured keyboards drive along the dreamy anthem. Koza shared that he wrote it about “the emotionally closed-off Scandinavian nature common in longtime Minnesotans.” Ironically, it had the audience singing along in the theater, unabashed.
Chris Koza finished out his release with “The Healer” from his In Real Time album. Everyone on their feet, it was a wonderful apex to a night of music. As the color palette of a backdrop lit up and the band pulsated with driving guitars and pounding drums, an ovation was easily earned.
Chris Koza’s Sleepwalkers release felt like an intimate affair. Surrounded by the historic theater and the collection of fans, it also felt expansive. There is a complexity in songwriting and delicateness that Koza effortlessly weaves into his music. One in which the more you listen, the more you appreciate.