The Grab Bag

The Grab Bag @ The Famous Spiegeltent

Sat 27 Feb 2010

As mentioned previously, part of the draw to the Festival claiming ownership of the Spiegeltent was its use as an Artists Bar, of sorts; late-night entertainment featuring luminaries associated with the Festival, with admission free if you held a ticket to any of the other shows at the Spiegeltent that evening. And tonight – well, let’s just say that when I discovered that Megan Washington was playing with Festival Director Paul Grabowsky in their cunningly-named Washington/Grabowsky Project guise, I nearly flipped out with excitement.

Arriving a little bit late to an almost completely-packed Spiegeltent, it took me half-an-hour to squeeze through to the bar; all the while, the soft and sparse notes of the Project’s smokey jazz mesmerised the crowd into an awed hush. Grabowsky led the band from behind the piano, and Washington’s gloriously soulful vocals washed over us like gentle, lapping waves at the beach on a moonlit night; the horns were wonderfully subdued, never outstaying their welcome, and the drums also restrained.

The performance almost felt like a perfectly balanced struggle, with the Project threatening to leap out in moments of musical dynamite, but being held back, kept under a tight leash. The tension generated by such a dynamic was almost unreal; at times, it felt like the simple act of breathing would detract from the music being presented. And the final track of the evening, wrapping up at about 2am, featured the same unspeakably heart-rending pull-away from the microphone by Washington that I’d seen – and been blown away by – previously; absolutely beautiful.

Definitely one of the highlights of the Festival.

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