Music : A knockout night with Island musicians
Profoundly memorable experiences almost always catch you by surprise: you don't see them coming. One rare exception is this Saturday night, when there will come an alignment of homegrown Vineyard musical stars so strong they should be their own constellation. You could not hope for a better way to spend a winter evening, or ask for a more intimate glimpse of quintessential Island culture.
Nina Violet, Willy Mason, and Milo Silva - each a veteran of the Vineyard schools (the Charter School, in Milo's case), and belonging to the same generation - will be playing together at Che's Lounge. The concert will provide one of those great moments (legendary in retrospect) when three great names played together in the same place on the same night.
If this is your first Nina Violet concert, prepare for cognitive dissonance. The first few moments of listening to her perform are like watching a transformation that shouldn't be possible. Her bearing almost painfully modest, Nina is barely visible behind the microphone until she closes her eyes, takes a breath, and pours the music out.
A multitalented musician who grew up in a home where instruments outnumbered furniture, Nina is equally comfortable with a guitar, a viola, a piano, and just about anything else that carries a tune. The engine behind her songs is her two-tiered voice, its smoky ground floor separated from its amber-colored upper stories by a beautiful breaking point.
Listen, if you can get past the sheer beauty of the sound, to Nina's lyrics. A prolific songwriter since high school, she plucks words and phrases out of some semiconscious underground mine. How she settles on words so pitch-perfect yet unexpected is one of the unsettling mysteries that is destined to bring Nina to the world's attention any day now.
Willy Mason, on the other hand, has escaped the Island's long shadow so successfully that the real world has given him his own page on Wikipedia. Willy's timeless folk tunes, delivered in a reassuring rumble of a voice, lend both strength and comfort. His career as a singer-songwriter has taken him all over the world, but he has remained faithful to his Vineyard roots and unfailingly generous to his home Island.
Milo Silva is a resolute autodidact, having taught himself Tuvan throat-singing while still in high school, then traveling to Mongolia to pick up the morin huur (a powerful-sounding two-stringed cello). His experiences provided him with innumerable experiences, apocryphal and otherwise, that he sometimes regales his audiences with, in avuncular tones. The son of the late blues master Maynard Silva, Milo surrounds himself with a nebula of odd Island musicians from his generation who have lately flown under the flag of "The Moonlarks."
Joining Nina, Willy, and Milo are Kahoots, a highly accomplished and well-established Island-grown band whose broad influences include swing, bluegrass, and jazz. Their repertoire boasts a mixture of original compositions and beloved standards.
Nina Violet, Willy Mason, Milo Silva and the Moonlarks, and Kahoots, Saturday, Dec. 26, 8 pm at Che's Lounge, Main Street, Vineyard Haven (across from Bowl and Board). Minimal cover charge. (For the best seat, arrive at 7:30.)
Daniel Waters is on the production staff of The Times.