Akie Bermiss at the Owl, the Late Set 4/20/18 (by Sami Stevens)

PERSONNEL: Akie Bermiss (Voice and Piano)

SET LIST: Can’t Take My Eyes off of You (Crewe/Gaudio), Space and Time (Bermiss), I Know Death (Bermiss), Medicine (Bermiss), Close Your Eyes (Bermiss), Alone Again (Bermiss), On The Street Where You Live (Loewe/Lerner) Still Bleeding (Bermiss), Before You Go (Bermiss), Send It On (Bermiss)

HIGHLIGHTS: Akie Bermiss balanced humor and darkness with a personal set of space-themed tunes.

Akie Bermiss, writer of of alien love songs, pianist, singer, and lovable nerd, gave an informal, intimate solo set for a small crowd of eager listeners at the Owl Music Parlor. A fan of science fiction, Bermiss’s songwriting called to mind something akin to Star Trek; on the surface dealing with alien worlds, but at its core, dealing in the very human realm of relationships and love. Bermiss primarily writes jazz-influenced RnB and Neo-Soul but mixes it up with an occasional light-spirited standard.

“Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” set the tone; deviations from the original melody and harmony were carefully selected for maximum impact, the song ending a playful, surprisingly atonal interaction with a car alarm sounding in the distance. The first original, “Space and Time” was a lush love song, dealing with Bermiss’s favorite brand of forbidden romance; one between alien and human. The song took the set to a more modern space, with minimal harmonic movement and voicings inspired by D’angelo era RnB. In “Medicine,” Bermiss built a love story around a short bass ostinato, with short, lyrically driven phrases on the verse. His delivery was rough and dynamic, recalling a Ray Charles brand of intensity. “Close Your Eyes” featured a cameo by singer Candice Corbin, a warm, genuine duet evocative of modern musical theatre.

A new song “Alone Again” was a catchy riff on unrequited love, a mid tempo jam on the day to day realities of single life. A microcosm of the entire show, the song read as funny, relatable, and deeply revealing; a sort of self-deprecating refusal to wallow in the weight of loneliness, choosing instead to greet it with humor. Bermiss balanced the set with a rendition of “On the Street Where You Live,” beginning out of time, then meandering to a joyfully loose traditional Ragtime feel. “Still Bleeding” was another standout original about love and loss, showing Bermiss’s church influences through his vocal riffs and harmonic choices. “Send it On” was the clear climax of the night, a gospel theme culminating in an extended vocal improvisation rich with tradition, ending in a call and response with the eager audience.

by Sami Stevens