Show Review: Holly Bowling at the 5 Points Music Sanctuary, March 13, 2017
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.
The second set was mainly comprised of one long jam that included “Free”, “Dark Star”, moving into “Stella Blue”, “Piper”, then “Sweet Virginia”, before ending with a staggering rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Morning Dew”. Trying to follow what she was playing, and where she was going next was half of the fun. “Piper”, by Phish brought great energy for those who wanted to dance, while “Morning Dew” and “The Squirming Coil” encore were also big crowd pleasers.
The show brought young and old in from Monday’s cold to enjoy the baby grand piano, which was beautifully magnified by the acoustics of the venue, a 90-year-old church that has been converted into a multi-use concert space and non-profit foundation. The events held at the venue will fuel the audio-focused passions of Tyler Godsey. Since taking over the space and forming the foundation earlier this year, Godsey’s focus has been on creating a unique sound and music experience for audiences.
Godsey, who has dealt with the consequences of profound hearing loss from an early age, perceives vibrations and some tonality, but at a much lower level than most. Godsey’s approach to power, sound, and music is unique. His life-long love of music and passion for sound, spurred further by his children whose deafness has been aided through Cochlear implants, has formed the focus of 5 Points Music Foundation, the non-profit side of 5 Points Music Sanctuary.
Events held in the new concert space will directly support the Foundation through a series of initiatives, all related to improving the lives of others through sound. The first initiative will provide group music therapy sessions to introduce participants to strategies that have been shown to improve mood, coping strategies, and pain management. The second initiative aims to offer music lesson scholarships for those with hearing loss. Additional goals include providing hi-fi earplugs to artist, stage workers, and others who may be at risk for hearing loss, while advocating for smart, practical solutions to minimizing the damage that can come from being so close to sources of amplified sound.
Many audio-focused upgrades have been put in place to improve the quality of sound in the venue. From speaker upgrades to sound absorbing panels, to removing walls and reinforcing others, the acoustic improvements ring true.
5 Points Music Sanctuary showed its diversity as a venue, varying from the wide-open raucous first show held at the new venue, The Dead Reckoning, to an intimate reserved seating experience with Holly Bowling. The events held at the new venue will go on to support a higher cause, and the size of the venue will fill a void for a larger mid-sized concert room not currently represented in the Roanoke market.
The next events hosted at The Sanctuary will be “The Legendary Biscuit Sessions” featuring their legendary biscuit bar, an array of fine elixirs, and special performances by The Floorboards – April 23, and Larry Keel – April 30. Brunch starts at 11:00am and the music starts at 12:30pm.
Follow 5 Points Music Sanctuary here for upcoming events:
Donate to the 5 Points Music Foundation here:
The live-stream of the show can be viewed here: