December 20, 2009

Birds Fled From Me & John Houx @ The Crepe Place

As John Houx sat on the floor of The Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, CA, playing his song "Born in 1984", a painting of a grinning Bob Dylan circa 1969 looked down on him. The uncanny resemblance between the two went further than looks, and to Houx's credit, he doesn't shy away from a songwriting style that owes a lot to the august folk singer. That is good because his songwriting is strong enough to carry past comparisons, and his easygoing presence kept any hokeyness at bay. He ran through a strong set of songs that were witty and sharp, personal but not overtly political. Houx was opening for Birds Fled From Me, solo project of local artist Rachel Williams, who performed admirably with an impromptu band and a case of jet lag. But it was the first songs in her set, performed solo using a tape delay, that were most captivating. Her lilting, alluring voice accompanying itself on songs about love lost or found. She has a endearing skittishness onstage, seemingly unable to stop herself from telling her audience how nervous she is in between songs, or declaring "I'm a really self-conscious person. Seriously." In front of an enthusiastic crowd in her hometown, she seemed at ease in her awkwardness.