Holly Bowling: Innovative Pianist Plays Roanoke’s New Music Sanctuary

Reviewer: Andrew Chester
Photographers: Roger Gupta and Jason Kincaid

From the first notes of “Crazy Fingers”, classically trained pianist Holly Bowling captivated listeners at Roanoke’s newest venue, 5 Points Music Sanctuary, with her unique piano interpretations of jam band classics from the Grateful Dead and Phish.

Bowling, who has been playing since the age of 5, treated Roanoke to her first performance of the rarely played live Grateful Dead tune, “Sage & Spirit”. The soft melodies serenaded fans and lulled them into a calm, before she played a booming compilation of “Wingsuit”, and “Wharf Rat”, she then transitioned back to “Wingsuit”, before sliding into “Taste” to close out her first set. Bowling didn’t just tickle the ivories of the baby grand piano, her improvisations included bending the strings from behind while playing, or striking specific strings with a mallet. Her creativity and brilliance as a pianist were showcased by her ability to transcribe complex arrangements to solo piano. She took that one step further in her smooth improvised transitions from one song to the next.