Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino at Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C.

Jennifer Harstwick and Nick Cassarino recently teamed up for a rare acoustic-duo tour in support of their new collaboration album Nexus. The tour brought the tandem to a series of intimate venues where the two old friends could really showcase their rich chemistry. Harstswick (Trey Anastasio Band) and Cassarino (The Nth Power) are life-long friends who grew up together in Vermont. 

 

As I walked into Pearl Street Warehouse, just after doors opened, I was pleasantly greated with the soothing sounds of a soulful cover of the beloved Talking Heads classic “Take Me To the River.” The house music acted as the perfect host for a rare concert featuring two extremely talented musicians and life-long friends. There’s only a handful of people inside the venue at this point, a small group of friends to my left locked into a detailed conversation that’s sporadically interrupted with random outbursts of laughter, a couple at the front of the house occupies a table right in front of the stage with the best angle to view the duo’s stage setup. A few people occupy the bar wearing Phish t-shirts which may as well have been flags being raised in honorary support. 

 

I make my way to a vacant table and sit down alone basking in the rearranged Talking Heads classic. I couldn’t pen the artist, but I was 99% sure it was Al Green. As the song fades out I was happy to hear the opening notes of Alabama Shakes’ “Sound and Color” come through the PA next. Whoever was working the house music clearly deserves a raise. Rachel Levitin opened things up just after 8 p.m. with her friend Alexandra Touzinsky and together the pair served up some fresh Americana folk. Levitin debuted a few new songs and played some of her classics as well while Touzinsky added some nice flare on her violin. 

 

Cassarino emerged solo to kick off the headlining slot and treated fans to some soothing acoustic ballads. The highlight from his miniature solo set came when he dipped into a stripped down cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” which featured some brilliant crowd participation. Once J Ha joined her long-time friend on stage she was met with a roaring round of applause, as the room was significantly busier then when doors opened. Together the duo stuck mostly to their solo work of all unreleased original material right out of the gates, including their single “You Can’t Take It Back,” which has over 30,000 views. Hartswick actually started a record label to put out this new project with Cassarino to ensure the album could be made just they way they wanted. The pair didn’t shy away from covers as they put a unique twist on Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies.” Keeping the momentum in full swing, they also played Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Back Home” and an absolutely soul-stirring cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel From Montgomery.” Heartswick had the crowd in the palm of her hand hanging onto every single word. 

 

 

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Stu Kelly


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