Written by Julie Ann Shaw
Zachary Williams, of the folk-rock trio, The Lone Bellow, released his debut solo album, Dirty Camaro, in October 2021. Although his Spring 2022 Tour doesn’t officially start until March, Williams took the stage for an intimate performance at the storied, vintage 1920’s jazz club style venue, The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, to share stripped-down, simplified versions of his songs from his acclaimed new album.
The opening act was Raye Zaragoza, an anthem and protest-driven folk singer who is vocally proud to be a Japanese-American, Mexican, and Indigenous woman. The overall theme of the music she writes is centered around empowering women of color. The original songs that filled her setlist were written with pride and purpose.
“Change Your Name” was one such song, written to honor her mother, who immigrated to America when she was only three years old, and the struggles she faced as a young girl who neither looked nor spoke like the other girls around her. “Driving To Standing Rock” is her protest song to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their battle against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a protest that Zaragoza was proud to be a part of.
Zachary Williams walked onto the stage a few minutes after 8 p.m., unaccompanied by any band. The audience, some seated at tiny round tables, most standing all around them, waited for Williams to pick up his guitar. Instead, Williams took a moment to scan the audience and humbly take a few breaths in awe of the fact that people came to see him perform, and a huge smile came upon his face. Just as the audience began to wonder what exactly Williams was doing, without introduction, he abruptly began serenading the audience with an incredible a capella version of “Airplane.”
For the next couple of songs from Dirty Camaro, “Can’t Tell The Difference,” “Elizabeth,” and “Dirty Camaro,” it was simply Williams and his guitar, either his acoustic or electric, with an old, tiny amp that clearly has seen him through some good times.
The evening became casual and friendly, with Williams continually interacting with the audience through conversations and banter that felt like they were between friends.
Unbeknownst to the audience, Williams had a few surprises planned for the evening. Williams introduced his friend, California native singer-songwriter Odessa, to accompany him on her violin for “Anything” and “Something Happens.”
Williams then called Raye Zaragoza back onto the stage to join him for a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Her Picture” with him while Odessa accompanied them both. For Odessa’s last song of the evening, Williams took a back seat as Odessa regaled us with a version of her 2015 hit single, “Hummed Low,” that was stripped down to just the picking and light drumming on her guitar, and her calming, yet poignant voice.
After Odessa left the stage, the conversations between Williams and the audience shifted to fun-spirited stories about how Williams’ family members would scare him as a child in the most creative, and unusual ways. Several members of the audience specifically asked about his uncle, Dale, knowing very well the types of shenanigans that he would drag Williams into.
The last few songs were just Williams and his guitar again. “After Game For Guessing,“ Williams told one more story about his uncle, feigning disbelief that he was ending the show “like this,” wished everyone a good-night, and then walked off stage. Williams waited about a minute before giving in to the demand for one more song, knowing very well that he was going to perform an encore the entire time. His encore, The Lone Bellow’s “Tree To Grow,” was the perfect way to end the night. He performed this song softly, but with the same profound emotional strength that he had delivered throughout the night.
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