Discovering original music isn’t easy, especially in Napa where venues are few and their proprietors tend to rely on proven formulas like jazz, blues, cover rock and tribute bands.
In order to hear new bands, playing their own music, without having to drive out of Napa County, I’ve dodged billiard players’ cues at for , clambered onto a stepladder at for the Kegels and arrived at a remote farmhouse just in time to catch the end of a gloriously loud set by Upvalley-based Maere.
But this week, I won’t have to do any of those things to hear an entire evening’s worth of original music by two highly-regarded Bay Area acts – instead, I’ll be kicking back in a comfortable seat at the in the heart of downtown.
Fresh from his sold-out CD release party at Yoshi’s in San Francisco last month, Irish-born Eoin (pronounced Owen) Harrington is the headliner for Thursday’s double bill at the Opera House, where publicity manager Julie Dalrymple has been following his career.
“I’ve been been a fan for probably eight years or so, from when he first started playing in the city (of San Francisco),” she told me Tuesday.
Harrington, a favorite of Bay Area radio station Alice, packed Yoshi’s April 22 for the record release party celebrating his new CD, Confess.
A singer-songwriter with a poetic turn of phrase, Harrington’s range encompasses the vulnerable honesty of James Blunt and the soulful grooves of James Hunter.
It’s not surprising to read in his press biography that Harrington has opened for Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette, Train, Sara Bareilles, and Brandi Carlile: His music is easy to like, and – said Dalrymple – so is he.
“He’s not just a talented guy,” she said. “He has a great presence about him, and great music.”
Harrington is also a “good, down-to-earth guy” and “very charming,” added Dalrymple, who has arranged for the entire six-piece band to mingle after the show at on Second Street.
Opening for Harrington and his band, Five A.M. is a Santa Rosa-based group that rocked the opening of last Thursday, Dalrymple said.
Like Harrington, the members of Five A.M. play their own music, she continued:
“It’s all about originality.”
Here’s where the rest of us come in: With interim artistic director Chris Smith still getting his sea legs at the Opera House, now is the time to show him that Napa audiences want and will pay for high-quality music that we haven’t heard before.
If Thursday’s show draws even a modest crowd, chances are good that the historic hall will make it the first in a series of concerts showcasing up-and-coming musicians and groups.
“This is our test, to see if we can do it,” Dalrymple told me.
“We’ll see if we can get people to come out and support it.”
To sweeten the deal, the Opera House is partnering with Carpe Diem to offer ticketholders either a $50, three-course menu with a glass of wine or a “nice little treat” on the house, Dalrymple said.
Sounds like a plan – though for me, just the chance to hear live music that’s new to my ears is sweetener enough. See you there.
Eoin Harrington and Five A.M., May 26, 8 p.m., , 1030 Main St., Napa: $20 / $25. Doors open 7 p.m.; more information at www.nvoh.org
Napa Patch editor Louisa Hufstader is a former music broadcaster and record-company executive who has produced more than 100 compilation CDs for the Rounder Records Group.