A Glimpse of the Arlington Music Scene; Tiffany Thompson and Others Perform at IOTA Club

This is a review of my February concert at IOTA Club and Cafe in Arlington, VA. It was originally published in The Greyhound print newspaper.  


Written by Eric Campos


Image 7[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are hundreds of ways to spend a Friday night and, honestly, about half of them get old pretty damn quick. Club music can become a drum, beat, beat, but has no life. Live music is always live—it’s a moving, breathing entity that shakes you into awareness saying, wake up it’s the weekend. The trick then is finding the bands, musicians and places that will do this for you.

It’s a brisk Thursday afternoon on February 21 as I complete my drive into Arlington, Virginia. I pass the White House, Washington Monument and most of our country’s prized sites in several flashing minutes. D.C. is a marvel, but I’m not here to explore the capitol. Several months ago I was at the Teavolve Café in Baltimore where I caught a live performance of rising singer/songwriter Tiffany Thompson. The music stayed with me ever since and led me to further investigate a truly gifted artist. This January, Tiffany released her latest album, One Voicea review of this album can be found on The Greyhound website. She has since been on tour to promote the album; Arlington was her next venue, and a home base. When she informed me of this, I was ready for a road trip. My destination was the IOTA club, but before that we agreed to meet before the show for a brief interview.

Our initial interview for my review on One Voice and my time spent listening to her music has given me a grasp on the artist behind the album cover. Her style of music is a signature fusion of pop- Americana and soul, with aspects of folk and jazz thrown in. What binds this together is her raw talent of singing and lyrics that draw the listener in with narrative. Some songs and arts tend to be more story driven than others; I’ve noticed this to be a key element in Tiffany’s own music. As an album, One Voice is woven together very much like chapters in a novel. All of these songs touch deep themes brought through a story-like delivery. This always intrigues me in music because, aside from the meanings and themes we can derive from songs, there are firsthand stories on which they are based. Like many writers, Tiffany revealed that much of her songs are based on her own experiences. One Voice weaves a lyrical image attesting to the power of music and art itself. Collectively, the album highlights areas of struggle, perseverance and faith as one journeys to unleash their potential to the world.

Tiffany revealed that it wasn’t always an easy journey. One of the songs performed at the concert was “Bed of Decision,” which illustrated some of the challenges she faced. She stated, “Many of the songs on One Voice came out of the struggle to create. I co-wrote “Bed of Decision” with my friend and producer Phil Danyew the day I was facing a lot of tough decisions about next steps with my music. I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of things that I needed to pull the trigger on.” It’s something that everyone can relate to in some measure, being at a crossroads in life. This creates a connection between the listener and the artist. We’ve all been in a rock in a hard place. We’ve all had to pull ourselves out. Even in songs that reflect hard times or sadder themes, the overall presence of the song is not somber. Her music as a whole appears to take on a rising, uplifting affect.

Our latest interview revealed a core theme, both in in Tiffany’s life and music: faith. I would not describe Tiffany’s music as solely Christian oriented or primarily geared towards a Christian audience. The music does not speak specifically on faith, but of moments in life itself-faith is important element.

“I’m not intentionally thinking about my faith, but my faith often influences the lyrics a bit due to that fact that when I was going through those real life experiences, I was praying for discernment and living in a community with people who encourage me,” said Tiffany. One can always speak directly on faith and religion, but it struck me how Tiffany was able to create music that alludes to faith without gospel. It shows that human stories, music, on its own can hint to the divine. When it comes down to it, she really wants to create good music, her music, and that should in itself be an expression of faith.

The D.C. and Arlington areas also provide another inspiration for Tiffany: community. She tells me the area isn’t on the same level as Memphis or New York, but it is definitely an active location for music. It’s where local artists can build strong ties with their fans. Arlington sees a lot of touring acts pass through and provides several close and interesting venues to view shows. IOTA is among them. It’s not big or particularly elaborate, and it doesn’t need to be. The sound was great, the lighting adequate (though difficult to photograph) and it was just an interesting place. I would describe IOTA as an underground coffee house-like scene. I would even say it has a noir quality to it as well— think, “play it again, Sam.” It’s a bar and a café, so it creates both a lively, yet chilled, atmosphere.

The show was a three-parter, Tiffany playing second in the line-up. Going back to her music itself—when you experience her live, you get an even greater sense that the music takes on a rising feel. No loom-and-gloom—it wants to pull you out of the seat and try to imagine the vivid lyrics. She put energy and heart into the performance, which really drove it home. People were both listening with thoughtful gazes or singing the lyrics, but the crowd was totally absorbed in the scene Tiffany was creating. She played several songs from her albums We are the Dreamers and One Voice, but she spiced things up with her own rendition of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and more, all accompanied by excellent cellist Katie Chambers and drummer Ben Tufts. Joining Tiffany were two other performers, Kelley Mcrae and Flo Anito.

Combined, these performers gave the night a unique blend you really wouldn’t find in a bigger venue. Mcrae and her husband are folk musicians. They actually spend much of their time traveling to venues and performing. Flo Anito offered a good conclusion to the night; her music takes on a kind jazz-pop splice up, a very unique sound and variable in the kinds of songs she performed. They complimented each other; after watching the event it was very appropriate that Tiffany performed in the middle; in many ways, her style segued between the other two different styles. All of these artists did very well, and I highly recommend checking them out.