In 2018, Phoenix-raised singer-songwriter Laura Joy decided to return home from lengthy sojourns in New York and Chicago. She had just started getting back into her musical groove with shows when the pandemic turned the world upside down.
“Everything was just getting started for me,” she recalls with a laugh. “My relationships were gone, and I had regular income set up and it shut down. I am only getting started again right now.”
So, she was delighted when singer-songwriter Brad Colerick approached her about expanding his longstanding Wine & Song series from Southern California to Phoenix.
Colerick launched the weekly showcase in 2009 in South Pasadena, California, where it has since become an essential hub for the area’s acoustic music scene. Their hope is that Wine & Song Phoenix, with Joy as the primary host, will similarly foster community and camaraderie for artists and audiences convening on the back patio of Short Leash in the Melrose District.
Longtime fans of the South Pasadena Wine & Song series are drawn to its intimacy, as is Joy. While many other showcase series present four to six artists in a night performing only a few songs apiece, Joy says she prefers Wine & Song’s “more focused” listening-room atmosphere, with two featured artists performing seven songs each and sharing background stories between numbers.
“There’s time to get to know the artists,” she says. “I know there is interest in this.”
That interest was evidenced at Wine & Song Phoenix’s March 10 launch, when over 80 people — more than could squeeze inside the restaurant — braved the winter cold to warm themselves by heartfelt tunes from Colerick and fellow featured guest Nathan McEuen. Joy says turnout on St. Patrick’s Day was also good and shows have continued weekly, with artists such as accordionist Tatiana Crespo, bluesy folk-rocker Eric Ramsey and Americana duo JC & Laney filling out the March calendar.
“I hope to run the series up until Memorial Day and then pick it up again in the fall” after taking a summer break, she says. Lineups for April will be posted at wineandsong.com/phoenix as she confirms them.
“Short Leash has actually been hosting music for almost a year on Friday-Saturday-Sunday,” she observes. “Still, a lot of people don’t realize they have live music. They’re specifically opening for this event on Thursdays (and offering) a specialized pub menu,” although the venue’s website does not advertise those nights.
Joy, who played on one of Colerick’s virtual Wine & Song shows via Zoom during the pandemic shutdown, says it is exciting to create a welcoming haven in Phoenix where local and touring artists can meet up and perform.
Local artists generally play all covers at area gigs, but the Wine & Song format enables them to perform their own music and share audiences with better-known touring acts.
“They are pro-original songs, so a lot of people want to play there,” she says, adding that audiences might be surprised by “the variety and level of talent available” in Phoenix’s diverse community.
At Joy’s own shows, “tips are better than ever” as the club scene continues to open up and people venture out again. As she speaks over the phone, a man’s voice can be heard singing behind her; she’s at an open mic night, and he’s playing to a full house.
“It is packed. It is crazy. And I went to one on Monday and it was also crazy, so everyone’s very happy to be out and about and sharing music. So that’s good news. I feel that’s key in starting up Wine & Song here now, because there are still a lot of places that aren’t doing music like they used to locally. There’s room for new projects to start up.”
Wine & Song Phoenix with Laura Joy
WHEN: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays
WHERE: Short Leash Hot Dogs and Rollover Doughnuts, 4221 N. Seventh Avenue, Phoenix
COST: No cover; suggested donation of $15
INFO: 518.312.6031, wineandsong.com/phoenix, laurajoymusic.com