While shows at Jammin' Java, a snug, intimate space tucked outside the Beltway in Vienna, often feel like a well-kept secret, the word had gotten out about singer-guitarist Ari Hest's performance Tuesday night. The coffee shop was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with eager fans, and it was clear from their thunderous applause (and occasional screams) that they were not disappointed.
After years of performing and recording independently, Hest recently signed with a major label. His 90-minute set pulled heavily from his most recent album, "Someone to Tell," from the narrative "Fascinate You" to "Anne Marie," whose lilting melody sounded like a bedroom window serenade. Hest carried the songs with his full, sugary voice, which swelled over a lightly strummed guitar on "A Fond Farewell" and stretched to cover both parts of "I've Got You," a song intended as a male-female duet.
Hest's three backing musicians rotated on and off stage between songs, adding subtle variations to his arrangements, such as the simple percussion that balanced Hest's delicate acoustic-guitar melody on "Monsters." Hest did let loose occasionally, striking his guitar and coughing out his lyrics on the standout "One More Hour." But for the most part, he floated through his songs as if they were dreams, clearly content to have a full room to share them with.
-- Catherine P. Lewis