I’m no career musician; I’m no professional singer. But I have been listening to all kinds of music since I can remember, and I do know what exceptional talent and hard work looks and sounds like.
It looks like The Mark Gibson Duo. It sounds like Mark Gibson and Ryan Magnani playing their hearts and souls out for nearly three hours (taking only one break) at The Fur Shop, which featured a newly rearranged upstairs.
Or anywhere else, that is.
I’ve watched them perform a handful of times over the past year and a half, but as of late, I’ve been able to see them on a more regular basis. And I will tell you this; when they play, worlds collide, galaxies form, and solar systems are born. Okay, that’s maybe a bit hyperbolic, but only a bit. Each performance is new, inspiring, and fresh, and I could easily go to every one of their sets, but then I would be a creeper, so I’ll just stick to every other time… right???
Now, I have seen Gibson perform solo, and man, that guy will take you places with his vocals and guitar skills; I honestly could listen to him for hours. In a totally “I’m literally here for the music because I love live music and don’t want to be a groupie” kind of way.
When these two musicians come together, like they did last night, this experience is only amplified. If there is a zone that is solely made up of acute rhythms, moving, groovy bass lines, intricate, rocking melodies, and soaring, passionate vocals, they were there. And they were in it. And they shared this zone with the audience. And it was awesome.
Well, that’s all well and good, you might say, but why were they awesome? Well, I’m glad you asked. I will break it down for you, right now.
1) Mark Gibson’s vocals: This man has one of the best voices in quality and range I have ever witnessed. To put it in theatre terms (acting training and all that) Mark Gibson sings with the immediacy and all encompassing depth of your best Shakespearean actor. Mark Gibson Billy-Shakes. This. Stuff. Up.
He was on the breath, he was on the meaning; he let the lyrics and melodies flow through his entire being until the only thing to do with them was to let them escape, fully realized, out of his mouth. To those who do not have a background in Shakespeare—he was so amazingly good! Go see him; let me know how it goes.
2) Mark Gibson’s guitar skills: This man can take an acoustic guitar to new heights. He not only worked the strings like a person who was born with a six-string in his hand (and he’s only been playing since high school which makes his skills even more awe-inspiring), but he also knows his tech.
He balanced the audio in the room like no one’s business—you know, so you could actually hear the notes. Now, I say he because, like I said before, I’ve seen him play solo, and his awareness of the space he plays in is never in question. But, no doubt, Magnani deserves just as much credit for this balance as well.
Speaking of Ryan…
3) Ryan’s Magnani’s four extremities: A bass guitar in both hands, a tambourine strapped to his right foot, and a kick drum worked by his left. If the guy put a harmonica in his mouth, he could roll down the street in his own one man band.
You know how some people can play multiple instruments? Well apparently multiple instruments wasn’t enough for Ryan. He had to learn how to play them—all at once.
And he kills it. I’m telling you, the layering of these fellas’ music is incredible. Incredible. You hear it all. You get the the rhythms, the bass line, the melody, the vocals, and you get the words! Mark Gibson is intelligible when he sings! Oh my, I thought they didn’t make them like that anymore.
4) They looked so happy to be there: They were feeling the music; they were sharing it with the audience, sharing it with each other; they had fun, and they supported each other on stage. There was no sense of upstaging or competition, just the music working as they rolled out song after song—exciting originals and superb covers. And as a bonus for the evening, near the end of the set, Ryan and Mark led the audience in song, wishing Ryan’s mom (who was in attendance) Happy Birthday! Also, they totally welcomed dancing at this set, which I was happy about.
Confession: I dance in public… Oh, the struggle is real.
Well, that’s about it. Follow them, go to their events… I hear tell of a trio, which I will definitely have to see. Download Mark Gibson’s debut album, Beautifully Deconstructed—it features a more mellow sound than what The Duo had going on last night, but nonetheless, it is very well done. Support makes the new albums happen (there’s one coming out this year!).
Thanks to The Fur Shop for hosting a stellar night of music, and thanks to The Mark Gibson Duo for helping my friends and I celebrate my soon to be 30th birthday. It’s actually the 26th, the same as Johnny Cash’s, which made the “Ring of Fire” cover they rocked all the more awesome for me.