By Megan Brosnan
Freelance photographer in Chicago, IL
Working as a full time musician in Chicago, Patrick Gemkow is used to the crowded bars, expensive drinks, and unappreciative audiences. Frustrated with the routine, he decided to reach out to some of his favorite local acts: Shelley Miller, Brain Walker, and Derek Nelson, to create a night dedicated to local talent and those who love it. The idea was simple: provide an intimate audience, a fridge full of PBR, and talented musicians. The rest would take care of itself. It would be called The Noble Experiment and it would be held in Gemkow’s roomy loft apartment.
On July 16, what started off as a cool idea, came to life in a big way. The night kicked off with Shelley Miller. Miller, who has been busy recording a new album, immediately, wooed the crowded room of thirty. Her soulful lyrics and complex song structure left everyone quietly attentive. Her songs of heartbreak were highlighted with quirky interjections of dialogue. “People sometimes scare me,” she admitted. “That’s why I have cats.”
Brian Walker came next. With an impressive array of sharp and snappy songs (he’s only be performing for five years) it was easy to mistake him as a veteran of the scene. His cool and original style left the crowd bright eyed and singing along. “I want you, I don’t want strife.” His set was enhanced by another talented guitarist, a harmonica player and a female back up vocalist, who together created a set that got everyone hooting and hollering.
Third up was 22-year-old Derek Nelson. Listening to Nelson’s introspective lyrics, you would never believe it was his third time in front of an audience. He’s been playing music “forever,” he says, but just recently came out of the musical closet. One song, a hard strumming rock homage to home was a definite crowd pleaser. His closer, a wandering melodic journey proved that Nelson is a force to be reckoned with as he continues to mature as a performer.
The evening culminated with host, Patrick Gemkow. As he sat cross- legged on a stool in his living room, we got a glimpse of Gemkow in his own element: relaxed, having fun and doing what he does best: singing songs. Gemkow’s lyrics dig deep and hit hard, but are softened by the surprising delicacy of his voice. “I am going to hog the stage a bit,” he confessed, as he invited his older brother Chris up to join. Chris provided a grounded base of guitar and lead vocals, allowing Patrick to play around in the higher registers.
After the show, people milled around congratulating the performers. One attendee, who moved to the city at the start of summer, claimed it was her favorite night in Chicago. Free from the interference of the typical local music scene, it was clear that something special had gone down, and reminded everyone in attendance that great music can happen and be enjoyed anywhere…even in your own living room.
Freelance photographer in Chicago.
RECOMMENDATIONS by Brain Walker:
1. Siddartha by Herman Hesse
3. One thing you can’t live on the road without: Good Grass (or Hash, hehe)