Danny Schmidt and Rachel Reis 

Show Review: Online Exclusive

On Friday, May 19 at a show publicized strictly by word of mouth, Danny Schmidt and opener Rachel Reis took the "stage" at a house in the Highlands. I attended almost on a whim because I wasn't sure if I was going to a show or just another house party, I'm glad I went. It's a shame that people were distracted by The Black-Eyed Peas spectacle in Nampa because singer-songwriters performing in a dimly lit basement isn't a common occurrence in Boise. When I arrived Reis was on stage, which was really a small set of stairs leading up to the back door of the house. Reis hails from Chicago and writes meandering, blues-tinged ballads about boys from around the country and made her first six-song EP with microphones she won at an open mic night. Between songs, she engaged in conversation with the audience, often urging us to heckle her. Her musings were nearly as engaging as her music. She interrupted the beginning of a song about a boy in Milwaukee, pressing her palm against her forehead and telling us that she is “hopeless.” It was beautifully emo.

Austin-based Schmidt took over the stage as a thunderstorm began brewing outside. He is the quintessential singer-songwriter, mixing philosophy and storytelling with a rough transient lifestyle. A rich tapestry of life in America sprawled throughout his performance, furthered both by his mystical lyrics and the stories told in between songs. Though Schmidt proclaimed himself an “agnostic at best,” he nonetheless gave us a song about the divine—an Easter song that he “don't find contradictory at all.” The song's first verse is a good example of Schmidt's skill:It was 30 days 'til Easter when the elm tree hit the church/Thank God it fell on Friday cause at least no one was hurt/But there was fear it might delay the second coming of the Lord/'Cause the stained glass crucifixion was in stains upon the floor. "Stained Glass" goes on describing how an untrained man toils over fixing the stained glass before Easter. He finishes in time, but “there were bloodstains in the red and there were teardrops in the blue” and “in every pane of glass was all the joy and pain of man."

Schmidt also gave us a few "rant" songs, commenting on September 11, the death penalty and gay-bashing. Each was the most profound contemplation on those topics that I've heard through song. Instead of preaching through essay lyrics, Schmidt urged the audience to reconsider with inspired parables. The wind blew hard outside and lightning illuminated the basement at uncanny moments as Schmidt played. He ended with a sweet Dylan love song as we emptied out of the house into a warm, summer rain. I knew the intensely intimate evening had etched an indelible impression on each of the 20 or 30 of us who'd been there.

You can find more about Rachel Reis at myspace.com and Danny Schmidt at www.dannyschmidt.com

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