Singer-songwriters host intimate concert

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Though the seats were mostly bare Tuesday night at 1078 Gallery, singer-songwriter Olivia Awbrey told the audience that it felt refreshing to play for them.

“You are definitely the quietest audience I’ve had on this tour so far,” Awbrey said. “And it’s great.”

Awbrey played a set that night to 15 or so people as part of her West Coast tour supporting her EP “New Wheels.” Locals Nolan Ford, Ave Grave and Chico State alumna Sofia Maldonado also performed.

All of the musicians were confident singer-songwriters with their own styles, although at times it seemed that only their singer halves were being emphasized.

Ford set the overall tone of the show with his honest between-song small talk and an acoustic guitar that complimented his voice, which strongly resembled a fusion of Neil Young, The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Fleet Foxes.

But by performing only covers of other artists, Ford allowed everyone else to seem more original than him as the show progressed.

“I do write songs,” he told the audience. “They’re just not good.”

Maldonado followed with an original song after her tastefully jazzed-up pop covers, while Awbrey’s set included mostly her own music with a little bit of Joni Mitchell.

Ave Grave then played a short and melancholic, but deeply emotional, cover-free set, while effectively killing the acoustic mood with his electric guitar.

At the start of her set, Awbrey beckoned those staggered along the back two rows of chairs to fill up the front seats so that everyone could be friends.

Sitting up close among strangers during Awbrey’s set proved instrumental in connecting with the vulnerability of her performance. Her lyrics were clear and she even felt comfortable enough to debut a song that she had finished earlier in the day.

Like Ford, she often made comments mid-set that were funny, but it wasn’t clear that was her intention. Once, after sipping from her comically large Klean Kanteen, she mentioned the next song was about the fifth of July.

“This one’s called the ‘5th of July,’ and I wrote this on the 5th of July,” she said.

Exhilarating. But it was this honesty and natural delivery, like she was not really thinking or caring about what she said, that made those in attendance feel more like a part of the show, rather than disconnected from it.

Trevor Whitney can be reached at [email protected] or @nicegrandmas on Twitter.