There’s a scene in the 1965 documentary Don’t Look Back that highlights the friendly rivalry between two songwriters during Bob Dylan’s 1965 England tour. In this scene, a group of friends and musicians are all gathered in Dylan’s hotel room as Dylan and Donovan take turns performing acoustic versions of some of their songs.
Donovan takes his time with "To Sing for You," trying his hardest to create a whimsical mood throughout the room. The camera pans the enthralled faces of the attendees as they quietly listen to a songwriter at the top of his game.
Clearly they are won over, but not for long.
“It’s very competitive, but at the end of the night, we all love each other," Martin said.
As soon as the first chords of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” permeate the room, it becomes clear that Dylan operates on a different wavelength entirely, and the camera captures one of those special musical moments in history when music becomes more than music and becomes a moment where an artist bares their soul for anyone who wants to listen.
Behind The Strings, lounge Fox Hollow’s new weekly solution to the Wednesday blues, is sort of like that scene. Billed as a “celebration of the diversity of music through the stories of local singers and songwriters," Behind The Strings gives Houstonians a unique opportunity to hear songs the way they were meant to be heard.
A typical evening will feature a set of musicians seated together on stage, taking turns performing originals and covers that they have selected for the showcase. Accompanying each performance is a brief introduction or personal anecdote about the song being performed, giving listeners a candid peek at the songwriting process. The end result is like a live version of the liner notes that accompany your favorite albums.
Last Wednesday’s launch showcased local songwriters Clory Martin, Mia Lopez, Dana Flanagin and Chris Crump.
At any given moment, you can hear sad songs, pop songs, train songs, or maybe even a cameo performance.
“It’s very competitive, but at the end of the night, we all love each other," Martin told me after the show, adding that the excitement of performing an event like Behind the Strings lies in wondering whether her fellow musicians were going to continue on with the current flow or take the mood to a different place.
That’s what makes this event such a treat. You really never know what you’re going to get when four different songwriters share a stage for a night. At any given moment, you can hear sad songs, pop songs, train songs, or maybe even a cameo performance from host Dy’Lan Williams at the soundboards.
Several times throughout the set, the Kansas City Southern quietly chugged through the night as the musicians played on. The rumble of the train tracks coupled with the Americana-tinged interior of Fox Hollow help make Behind The Strings a cozy and authentic listening experience.
The atmosphere at Fox Hollow is absolutely perfect for this sort of vibe. Tucked just far enough from Washington Avenue to be considered “off Washington," I felt like I was in that hotel room with Dylan and Donovan back in 1965, sharing wine and enjoying four talented musicians sharing the secrets of their craft.
Behind the Strings happens every Wednesday night at Fox Hollow. There is no cover.