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by ANTHONY CROSS
A warm and sunny day in December, by most counts an anomaly, led to a quick regression of my smoking habit. In need of matches, I questioned wanderers and pedestrians for a flame, to no avail. In the midst of my despair, I met our subject, Marty Nightengale for our meeting. We exchanged pleasantries, as I darted around the pavement, still enthralled in finding a way to light my cigarette. Eventually I walked into a hotel lobby, smooth talking the concierge so that he wouldn’t notice a handful of matchboxes missing from his countertop.
With the desire for nicotine filled, we ordered our food, and began to go deeper into the backstory of this not-so-new artist. Marty Nightengale, as a performer, is really about Marty himself, he has no set band from one show to the next, sometimes playing acoustic shows when the venue fits. This versatility allows for a crazy performance calendar. “I end up usually playing about 300+ shows a year, some with a band, some solo,” he said with a smirk. “It took about a year to really get planted in the music scene here. When I moved out from the east coast, I had zero connections and was mostly playing solo shows.” One of Marty’s key elements is truly knowing his music, allowing him to craft a consistent, solid show every single time. “It’s great because I try and keep the same vibe at every performance, regardless of if I have a band behind me or if I am solo.”
This is incredibly important: Marty is rare in the sense of having found a center he can us as a touchstone. When you go to see a Marty Nightengale show, there are going to be quite a few unknown variables. One fact you can count on, however, is that Marty’s personality will draw you in, regardless of the setting or arrangement. When Marty performed with a full band at the Downtown Artery for the Fresh Talent Showcase, a rare sight was to be seen. Everyone was fully engaged. I took a moment to scan the room and not one person was on a cell phone or trying to capture the moment in photos. The audience was content living fully in the moment, and experiencing it in real time. For a performer anywhere this is a rare achievement in our time of social media and smartphones. These distractions provide a new obstacle in the realm of music performance. If you can manage to enthrall an audience and hold their attention away from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, any artist has achieved something truly amazing.
This is an acquirable skill, Marty insists, one that he observed early on while in Key West. Confused at first, I asked him to elaborate. He explained that the regular musicians around those parts have a gift when it comes to captivating an audience. “I watched as a guy who was playing in a bar acknowledged every single person walking in, sometimes by name, during his set. I realized that communicating with your audience and being personable are very important to a live performance.” Musical moments and audience engagement are Marty’s mantras when it comes to playing any show. “They want to feel like they know you,” Marty said finishing his last bite of his Reuben. I asked if there was anyone in the industry as a performer today who exemplifies these sort of principles. “Ray Lamontagne, Dave Matthews Band, and Ed Sheeran,” Marty states, “You just get a sense that they are truly themselves onstage; you walk away from the show knowing who they are.”
Authenticity is a driving force for Marty. The desire to be honest and truly form a connection with his audience and fanbase is his highest priority. It is exciting to see more of this on a local level. I urge you to attend one of his many shows, in fact, two of which are happening this first week, on January 2 and the 9 at Sonny Lubick Steakhouse and Lucky Joe’s, respectively. Give him a like on Facebook, check out one of his shows, and keep an eye on him. Marty Nightengale is making waves on the Front Range, and by all accounts, he doesn’t have any plans to stop anytime soon.