ensboro was brought to life last Sunday evening with singer-songwriter night, one of many recurring events at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co. at the Railyard off of Elm Street. This show featured the sounds of guitarists Laura Jane Vincent and Dean Driver.
Gibb’s is a recent addition to downtown Greensboro, located on W. Lewis Street across from Lotus Lounge and a stone’s throw from Spice Cantina. The area is a valley of sorts, situated at the base of S. Eugene Street’s grassy hill and framed by a modest tree line. While sitting on the benches of the patio at Gibb’s, one feels a cozy sense of being an integral member of the Gate City goings-on.
A blackboard, mounted on its black-and-tan brick walls, proclaims: “Beer for thought,” and advertises live music, trivia and yoga sessions. Inside, an aged wooden floor complements rustic red walls, and comfortingly organic-looking shelves house a plethora of board games which shine under white Christmas lights.
By 5:00 p.m., the Railyard was bustling. A 5K race organized by Greensboro’s Trivium Racing was concluding and the Raleigh-Durham area band Crossoverdrive was playing classic rock covers. Music fans and runners peered curiously at one another, crossing to and from beneath the boughs of a willow tree in search for brews.
The first to perform inside was Laura Jane Vincent, a Pinehurst native who majored in English at UNC-Greensboro. She had initially assumed vocal studies in the School of Music, but found the rigidity of the required courses to be too confining. Before long she had picked up the guitar.
As she developed her voice and lyrical sensibilities, Vincent lived in Greensboro but also spent several years in Charleston, S.C. before returning home to the many flourishing Gate City venues where she is now employed as a full-time musician.
Her eager eyes are framed by gently curling brown hair and rosy cheeks, and when she speaks she is armed with a ready and humble smile.
“To me, Greensboro is on fire right now,” Vincent said. “I’m honored to be a part of [its music scene].” Her favorite venues to play include the Blind Tiger, New York Pizza (NYP), Common Grounds and the Green Bean – but she is excited for upcoming performances at newer locations for music like Elsewhere and Urban Grinders. Her next show will be at NYP on Sept. 13.
Much of Vincent’s recorded music features her husband Dave Tippetts on drums, but Sunday’s show was acoustic. Her voice, a warm, almost country-like alto, brought forth deeply reflective and no-nonsense lyrics. Her diverse subject matter was refreshing and the often minor, powerful and complex chord changes she used issued a serious sense of having a real narrative to express.
One song, “No Shame,” which can be found on her album “…for a Sweetheart from the South” in the iTunes store, illustrated Vincent’s evident influence from artists like Gillian Welch in its undeniably folksy mentality and rollicking, bluesy changes on the guitar. Another was inspired by she and a friend’s shared appreciation for the magnolia trees in a Charleston cemetery.
Next on stage was Dean Driver, acoustic guitarist and owner of Greensboro’s Doodad Farm, a concert and event space founded in 2011. Driver is a self-proclaimed late bloomer when it comes to the musical world; his main occupation is in aerospace engineering, and he only took strides in a musical career after he turned 50.
His influences span a wide range of genres. For example, he listened to Top 40 radio stations growing up, which he says “meant a whole lot more than it means now.” He likes Stevie Wonder and the Beatles as well as “homier” sounds such as those of John Denver.
Driver’s career was kick-started in 2010 when he met a Massachusetts-based folk singer-songwriter named Cliff Eberhardt. Inspired by Eberhardt’s dedication and lyric-writing awareness, Driver attended one of his week-long workshops and ended up recording at his studio afterwards.
“What I loved about aerospace and still do is designing. It’s making something that doesn’t exist,” Driver said, likening the process to songwriting. “This music has opened up everything for me.”
His performance Sunday evening revolved around truthful and sometimes political lyrics. He plucked his strings with a bright defiance and fearlessly sang lyrics within a wide vocal range.
He greeted his audience with a nod beneath a brown newsboy cap, and then closed his eyes with the enunciation of his first words: “Life is short, but I ain’t worried.” Over the course of his show, he discussed material worth, one’s sense of place, coming home from war and the act of pretending to know things that one actually doesn’t. Halfway through his set he was joined by his daughter on backing vocals and the accordion.
Driver’s album, “Late Bloomer,” is available on iTunes.
Upcoming events at Doodad Farm can be found on their Facebook page; the next is a “Groove Jam” on Sept. 19, a benefit for the Greensboro Urban Ministry. A calendar of events at Gibb’s is listed at http://www.gibbshundred.com.