Imagine a pitch-black basement, with a lamp emitting just enough light for you to see the outline of your hands. Now…listen. Listen to the beeping sound, faint in the distance. Listen to the footsteps traveling offstage. Listen to the acoustic guitar, one string then two strings plucked. Again, footsteps. Listen to the harmonious double vibration of two strings plucked together that was just produced as if a responsive ’yes’ to the other negative, one high pitched string. Listen to the strings argue. Listen to the newer sounds layering on, louder than before.
Now…stop listening with your ears, breathe in, close your eyes, and travel with the music. The low pitched strings from the guitar resonate in your heart. You feel the bass. All of a sudden, this basement that you imagined, filled with life, is shut down, and again, you’re alone.
This is Emily Johnson’s “The Thank You Bar” at New York Live Arts with the band Blackfish consisting of musicians James Everest and Joel Pickard, thanking you for being there. The entire performance will move you, quite literally out of your seat, and it will make you relate to someone totally unfamiliar for a New Yorker: an Alaskan. A person who can sit down and tell a story, cutting through the small talk with creativity.
This is Emily Johnson raw, like tree bark you would have to eat if you were stranded in a forest. Fresh, beautiful, compelling, energetic, with a gleam in her eye when she moves to the rhythm of the live sound. She is sharing her story, her life as an Alaskan, as she hands you a part of her tiny igloo. She will give you all of herself with this passion and excitement. She shares it all, the good with the bad, making you feel as if you’ve known forever.
Johnson is your best friend from the very first minute. She is like that sister you always wanted. She is that teacher you never had but heard about. She is you. And yet, at the same time, you continue wishing you were her. You will walk out afterwards, sharing a peaceful exuberance with the other thirty or so audience members and like a blackfish, you will be calm and slowly sink into yourself, breathing a sigh of relief with a ‘Thank You.’