We all find joy in live music in a variety of different ways. Alana Horton graduated with a theater degree and wanted to do something that really scared her. So she picked up drums at the age of 23 and started getting into live music. She then started working at The Cedar Cultural Center, which opened up a lot of doors.
“I can very distinctly remember what the first time was that I understood what was happening on drum beats on songs that I loved, like a high hat dividing things that wasn’t just an abstract sound. And then seeing that live, as an adult, my whole world kept unfolding.”
Finding that experience where she kept understanding more and more of what she’s hearing, deepened her appreciation and the complexity of music. That perspective made her in awe of the performers that have spent their lives perfecting what you just heard, and understanding how hard it is to be locked in.
The love for live music blossomed with a personal challenge to attend as many shows as possible in a year, resulted in over 200. Alana herself is an artist and has the philosophy that everyone can be creative and an artist. She left The Cedar right before the pandemic for a position at Arts Midwest. The organization help distribute funds from the National Endowment for the Arts into rural areas, making sure that everyone has access to the arts and creativity. Watching the Save Our Stages bill pass has been inspiring for Alana to watch due to being so attuned to our community.
In the Absence of Live Music
Alana played her last show on March 10th, right before the shutdown. She was playing a show a week and working at a music venue, going to another 2-3 shows at week. Concerts were her life and community, so that loss was a sudden huge gap. She’s lucky to live in a house full of musicians that have been finding substitutes to that feeling of live music. They have weekly singing nights and songwriting challenges to keep her writing music. It scratches an itch to play and sing music together. The biggest benefit she loves is the interconnection and sense of community that they are cultivating in the pod.
Alana hasn’t been drawn to live streaming as much. Although knowing that many artists and venues are relying on this for regular income, she believes that we have to be cultivating things in a more personal manner. What emotional sustenance can we gather during this time that will help us return as an arts community when things reopen?
She’s gotten into making more digital music during the pandemic. Discovering a whole world of things that she didn’t understand before, it’s expanded her knowledge into producing music. This has lead her to listen to Arca, a Venezuelan producer and artist that have done a lot of production for Bjork. Arca just released a hundred remixes of one song that were done by an AI, which is pretty indicative of where we’re at.
Leslie Vincent One-On-One
Alana met Leslie Vincent for the first time while working together in a theater company called Umbrella Collective in 2015. She’s watched Leslie’s ascent from theater into the musical space as a performer. There’s a certain subset of Twin Cities bands that have actors that have crossed over into music, like Kiss the Tiger. Seeing that performative skill on display in both worlds is great to watch.
As an actor you’re often doing what other people are telling you to do. With the venture into singing, you have to get to the point where you can give yourself permission. It’s a huge leap to move into that role and Alana has found it exciting to watch Leslie make that step. Alana has been listening to These Foolish Things on repeat and finding the little twists that Leslie puts on the songs endearing. “My Baby Just Cares For Me” has a new queering of it with the change of pronouns as a woman singing about a woman. There’s an extra little sprinkling of these touches that make the album of standards unique and making it her own.
Leslie performed her set completely on ukulele and brandishing a sparkly skirt that made it’s first appearance on a night out. The humor and charm of Leslie sparkled through right away on the first song, “Hannah Always Cries at IKEA”. A song about buying a desk that arrived one box short and due to it being discontinued, had to be returned. If that doesn’t sum up 2020 perfectly….
“I Love You, Stephen King” had a beautiful contrast of incorporating dark details from his work with Leslie’s bubbly personality and quirk. “Paint Me A Tree, Bob Ross” was written during the pandemic as Leslie and her partner watched a lot of Golden Girls and Bob Ross. Finding what you love and pursing that passion is a theme that ties directly with Leslie’s music.
“I want a world of no mistakes
Just happy birds and happy clouds and happy lakes
Paint me a tree, give me something to see”
Leslie played the title track of These Foolish Things along with “Ain’t Misbehavin'”. The jazzy standards then redefined with the ukulele and Leslie’s strong voice. There’s a strength in her ability to transform a song with her personality and authentic emotions. Her swoon lures you through an arc of feelings and that pulls you away from the real world.
Her performance of “Moon River” marked another special moment in the evening when Leslie shared a story about her grandma and grandpa gifting two plane tickets to anywhere her and her fiance wanted to go. The tickets were originally intended for them to travel to her upcoming wedding, but learned they can’t travel anymore. Turning a familiar old song into a tender personal story touched the room with the realities of our current situation.
Exclusive Video – “Moon River”
What Live Music Means
In an ideal relationship with the audience and performer, there is a reciprocity where everyone’s showing up for each other. The level of engagement can be powerful and lead to some transformative moments.
“The thing I love about music is that there is a level of really deep listening that can happen. I think it’s hard to achieve in any other place. There is an energy in that space that is contagious and healing.”
Alana loves this level of listening and as an artist tries to cultivate that with shorter sets. It can be hard for folks to listen in that intent for a long time. Keeping things short and sweet can be a blessing in many ways.
In 2017 Moses Sumney came through the Icehouse and became Alana’s top show of all time. You could hear a pin drop in the pure silence from 200 people enthralled by the performance. It was one of the most beautiful experiences she’s partaken in and remains crystallized as perfection in her memory. Those moments are the core of live music. When you’re in a space to actively listen and allow something in, the results can be unimaginably fulfilling.
Follow and find more from Leslie Vincent at the links below