January 22, 2022
Jan 22, 2022
from the desk of Cassidy Ann, Citizen Vinyl Staff Producer
A new space for experiencing live music is growing a following in Asheville. The series, called Open Folk, rises from the ashes of isolation and canceled shows, due to the pandemic.
The nomadic event series, called Open Folk, originally launched in Buenos Aires, Argentina about six years ago. One of the co-founders brought the concept to Barcelona. Now Open Folk’s intimate shows are cropping up in Asheville, its first foothold in the US. The concept is simple — a crowd gathers around a musician, and they listen attentively.
“Musicians have almost no opportunity to play to a silent audience of strangers. To be actually heard, is incredibly powerful,” Zaq Suárez, local musician and Open Folk AVL founder, said.
No clanging of beer bottles in a bustling bar. No chatter between songs. The performances and the shared quiet in between is hallowed.
Suárez first experienced Open Folk as he was getting plugged into the local music scene in Barcelona. He traveled there in 2018, following the death of his father. Suárez says at the time, he was struggling creatively, and the flight to Spain was one of the cheapest he could find.
“What living in Barcelona revealed to me was the potential to bring humans of all walks of life together, by building the right kind of fire,” Suárez said.
When Suárez returned to the States, he found himself longing for those nights in Barcelona, surrounded by strangers that felt like old friends. Then the pandemic hit. Shows were canceled and gatherings, however small, were put on hold.
“It certainly made that longing of musical connection swell and burn,” Suárez said. “I missed an audience that wanted to fight for the artist, and a room dedicated to the craft of songwriting. I missed rooms full of humans on a spectrum of cultures and ages and genders who had come together because they wanted to experience something more than a buzz on booze.”
As soon as vaccines became available, Suárez contacted Open Folk’s founders, Fede Petro and Martin Grossman, and asked if he could bring the concept to Asheville. They agreed, set up a call, and Squares got to work. He’s so far put on 13 shows in Asheville. The next one is slated for Wed., Nov. 24 at Citizen Vinyl (details here).
The formula is the same for each performance. Six local acts are invited to perform three songs in intimate spaces, like living rooms, small theaters, and artist studios. The magic unfolds in the unplanned moments — a side effect of deep, present listening.
Suárez says even though he reviews each artist and their set before each performance, the interplay between musician and listener sparks something deep and unexpected.
“I get to hear the sighs and gasps from the audience when they first hear the musicians, but there’s a moment each week that surprises me. A moment where I look to Aaron, our current sound person, and we just shake our heads in awe,” Suárez said.
Photos Courtesy: Mike Christopher / @mikechristopher_