Starting the show, local singer song-writer Jackson Jackson had a sufficiently adequate opening set. Playing mainly as an acoustic duo with Anthony Powell, Jackson set list consisted of a mix of covers and original material. Unfortunately, Jackson's performance was unfairly hindered, having to battle with an audience more interested in their food and friends than the music coming from the stage. A good singer and musician, my only problem with the performance was an inability of to tell the difference between original songs and covers. Except for the clearly stated exceptions, I was confused when what I thought was an original song about Canada suddenly had clearly recognizable lyrics from a Wallfowers' song. I could have blacked out from lack of oxygen, missing a song transition, but I think that's highly unlikely. Whatever the case, it threw me off enough that with the already distracting audience, it made it hard to enjoy the rest of his show.
Up next was the stunning Debra Arlyn, and all I can say is that she is a boldly powerful singer that thrives in front of an audience. From the first amazing note, Arlyn's voice pushed out over the crowd and captivated the formally restless room. At times through out her set she belted out her songs with such force you could see the energy of it vibrating out through her finger tips. An amazing show, she certainly made a fan out of me. As for her admission that she hadn't played in front of an audience in a while, you wouldn't have known it by the way she mastered the stage. Highlighting material from her new album Heartbeat, she broke the night up with the occasional song from her first album and a wonderfully fun fan picked cover of Jason Mraz, that made me re-thing my dislike of the man. Personally, I thought it was an awesome performance who's only distraction was the running commentary detailing the creation of the new album we had come to celebrate. I would have loved to have seen what heights her performance might have reached if only she had ridden the momentum. It's understandable though, because like a new mother Arlyn was excited to talk all about her new baby.
Polishing off the night was a performance by recent Portland transplant Naomi Hooley. By the way the crowd thinned it was clear that most had come to see Arlyn. Lucky for those of us that stayed, it only made for a more amazing and intimate show with an awesome artist. Stepping on to the stage, I could see how easy it would be to underestimate Hooley by her petite appearance. It's not until she begins to sing that you realize that she has so many facets. From a playful folk darling, a beautifully melodic songstress, and finally a 250 pond blues-belting-sister that she somehow hides in her demur little form. A true golden nugget. Alaska's loss is our gain. Switching between an acoustic duo and a full band Hooley played just as powerful, no matte how many people were on stage. Truly having brought her passion, she seemed to gain more and more energy with each song. Even as the crowd trickled down to just us few faithfuls, Hooley would not be daunted. As for myself, I'm glad I stayed even though the thought of being to work at 6:30 the next morning linger just around the corner. I'm certain that like myself, the rest of those that stayed count themselves lucky to have finished the night with such a wonderful musician. I'd also have to say that once all the scenesters left Jimmy Mak's was quite enjoyable and better matched the friendly personality of its staff.