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There is something so quirky and charming about G.I.G.’s set-up, an 850-square-foot jewelry-box of a venue decorated as if by someone’s Miami-based Grandma, that it’s hard not to feel at home. Ruben Garcia’s “club,” which is really more of an all-ages hang spot, caters to the singer-songwriter set especially, making the ambience of couches and board games all the more cozy. Also, it’s not a bar, so the 49-maximum people in attendance are likely to be actually listening to the performer rather than vomiting up Surfer on Acid shots.

So, it might not matter who’s playing on a given night, the atmosphere does the legwork in so far as creating an interesting evening. That’s how I found myself thoroughly engaged in Michael Christopher’s acoustic solo project You and I Underwater. At just 20-years-old, Christopher roots his sound in what I have no choice but to call “emo.” Once upon a time, that was an actual genre, not just a slur. Like Christopher himself, emo came out of a hardcore scene, and the kid embodies its basic principles, melodic, guitar-driven rock with expressive vocals and confessional lyrics. More Sunny Day Real Estate, less Jimmy Eat World.

Onstage, Christopher lets his songs do the heavy emoting, and banters with the small but attentive audience (it’s easier when your family makes up a substantial portion of the crowd). Garcia, obviously a huge fan, occasionally cues a multi-colored disco light for Christopher’s more intense phrases, causing a vagabond-looking guy sitting in the corner to howl in approval. A funny and confident performer, Christopher busts out a few neat tricks, like keeping rhythm by tapping a tambourine under his right foot while strumming the guitar. And he is a strummer. For someone who’s played music for several years, Christopher’s few attempts beyond standard chord progressions sound tentative, though at least not distracting.

His real strengths are in his aching, powerful vocals, à la Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. And while his instrumentals are fairly standard, Christopher is an imaginative songwriter, employing extended metaphors (mostly about the sea, go figure) and even playing around with epistolary songwriting in the letter-based, “Come Back June, Return to Sender.” Would I have paid him as much attention in a bigger, more bustling venue? That’s hard to say, but here’s hoping Christopher has the chance to prove himself in a larger space. Unfortunately, singer-songwriters have to literally do backflips to get much exposure these days, unless they can find a tiny, comfortable joint like the G.I.G.

You and I Underwater
Sat., Sep 4
2803 N. St. Mary’s

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