On a beautiful summer night, roughly 30 minutes outside of the city of Pittsburgh, the Hartwood Acres Summer Concert Series welcomed national recording artist, Macy Gray. When I learned about this months ago, I immediately placed on my calendar. It was a dear friend, Jonathan, who loves music as much as myself that organized a Facebook event in order to bring a group of folks together. Never having gone to a concert at Hartwood Acres, I was not sure what to expect. This was free, so there were no security guards or entry areas. Everyone just came up and settled, be it with blankets, tents, dogs and more.
I showed up with a box of white wine (classy), seltzer water, cups and 2 bags of thawed (so I thought) Edamame beans from Trader Joes. Talk about a yuppie, I totally was outshined by the classy fruit, veggies and other items (including a centerpiece candle in the middle of the blankets) brought forth by the 7-9 other gay men within the accumulated party.
I found myself leaving the comfort of the group to head right up to the front row (technically stage right for Ms. Gray) to take in some of her hits. Most people attended in order to hear Gray’s 2000 international hit, ‘I Try.’ The catalogue brought forth by Gray had everyone up and dancing, which felt like a genuine jam session. I thoroughly enjoyed the songs she played from her debut, ‘On How Life Is’ (2009), as well as another effort and personal favorite, ‘The Trouble with Being Myself’ (2005). At one point, I made a comment that it felt like a continuous song to my friends. Not meant to be an insult, Gray’s band definitely kept the funk-infused party going for just under 2 hours. During the encore, she did a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep,’ which I found to be my favorite moment.
Gray does not dance, but more interacts with the crowd and sings pretty spot on compared to the recordings each fan has grown accustomed to. With such a distinct tone, many pass on Gray’s music as too “nasal-ly” or just almost character-like. I read once that even her own voice was seen as an insecurity to which she never intended to set out for pop-stardom. True music fans know that Gray’s ability to emulate the late Billie Holiday or Betty Davis is what’s here to appreciate. I truly enjoyed her stellar set and the amazing and talented band that backed her. A new album is set for release in October 2014.