The Television Studio in Kendall Hall was disappointingly lacking a big audience as the fourth show in the WTSR and Lions Television (LTV) Concert Series began. This, however, did not stop 22-year-old singer/songwriter Justin Levinson from performing as though he were trying to impress a packed house at Madison Square Garden.
Levinson was an extraordinary one-man band. Only two instruments were obvious to the audience: a keyboard and an acoustic guitar. A third, however, was revealed later on: a harmonica.
The songs kept coming, and each seemed just as good as or better than the last. As time passed and the audience, despite its small size, continued to show its approval, Levinson became more comfortable and performed with more abandon and conviction.
Some songs, like “Daisy May,” “Middlebrook Road” and “All I Ever Wanted” included notes created simply by Levinson’s hand slamming down on the keyboard. The shocking notes entertained the crowd immensely.
Levinson eventually became comfortable enough to tell small anecdotes between his songs. A crowd favorite was a story concerning his education in music school. After learning all of the rules, he wrote a minuet that broke all of them. He received a failing grade, and as he laughed about it with the audience at the keyboard, he explained that he wrote lyrics to it, and performed the song it became: “Sophie.”
Another song was inspired by his hometown, Vergennes, Vt. This “city,” it turns out, is the smallest city in the United States, encompassing a grand total of one square mile and boasting two streetlights. After describing, with a smile on his face, where he was from, he began another song, called “City with Two Streetlights.”
His acoustic performances were just as impressive as the ones played on keyboard. The audience enjoyed “Losing You to Tennessee” and “Home.” Levinson continued to display his skill, as he played intense, challenging harmonica solos.
After the first impressive 10 songs, though, he felt he had to prove he had a sense of humor to offset the number of “sad” songs he had played. So he took his harmonica from its holder, bent down to retrieve a new instrument, and displayed a kazoo.
He began the final song, “Nice to See You Guys,” using only the keyboard, until finally, toward the end of it, he said with a nervous smile, “Alright, here goes. This is going to be weird.” The audience could not hold back their laughter as he performed a surprising but strong kazoo solo.
Levinson made sure to say that he felt the concert series was “very hip for independent music.” He would later say that because the concert series does not use associations like the National Association for Campus Activities, planning and booking performances on the College’s campus was much simpler for smaller artists like himself.
In only an hour, Levinson’s talent convinced almost everyone in the room that the WTSR-LTV Concert Series may not have attracted a large crowd Wednesday night, but the humorous minstrel certainly deserved one.