There’s something extremely special about witnessing an up-and-coming local artist at work. Place this in a setting of a tiny library with string lights and less 100 people, and it’s a true experience.
Up-and-coming artists offer something in their performances—especially in the intimate, listening-room style setting of a library—that our favorite big-name musicians often don’t: the opportunity to literally see their passion. Those lip-quivering, eyes-closed, hair-raising moments show us the investment not only in their craft, but also in the story they’re telling us. Their love for the music becomes visible. This was more apparent than ever at Kayla Marque and Kid Astronaut’s Tiny Library Concert at History Colorado on March 7.
The stripped down, intimate nature of the Tiny Library Concerts made for Kid Astronaut at his best. At times, it almost felt like we were looking in on his personal jam session, like it was a one-on-one with a man and his guitar. The milky, delicate vocals of the Denver native paired with his skills on keys and guitar carried through the soft light in a small room and into each of our souls.
The beauty of Kayla Marque is in her subtleties—in the sweet runs of her refrains or the craft of her lyrics that take you right into a moment along with her. She’s enchanting—you feel every word and every little falsetto note seems to crawl down your spine as she sings. But Marque is by no means just a singer, or musician, even—she’s an artist in every sense of the word, and as she shared with the audience, she prefers to be considered a storyteller, and she’s an excellent one. She runs us through every emotion she felt during each experience she sings about and gives us a sense closeness to her that even the best of musicians can’t offer sometimes. This closeness, both musically and emotionally, was heightened even further with the Tiny Library setting—something that few other venues can offer.
That intimacy is one of the many elements of the Tiny Library Concerts that make them so special. What according to Megan Friedel, History Colorado’s curator of photography and coordinator of the Tiny Library concerts, began as somewhat of an experiment to “enliven the space [of the library] in a different way” has expanded to a series unlike anything Colorado has seen before. The shows take place in History Colorado’s Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center and reach capacity at about 85 people—like Friedel said, it’s not super tiny, but it’s damn sure different, and you’ll feel closer to any artist than you have in a long time. It also allows for a well-deserved celebration of Colorado musicians. “There’s this recognition happening right now about how important of a scene we have here,” said Friedel. “I think we’re trying to be a part of that as much as we can, and to really provide a comfortable, safe, welcoming place for musicians to play where they can reach a wider audience and also where we can document this moment.” The Tiny Library Concerts are part of an initiative by the History Colorado museum to celebrate Colorado music history, including the history that’s being made right now. All of the concerts are recorded and put into the museum’s archives so that Coloradans 20, 30 and more years from now can see what makes today’s music scene so special. Friedel is also leading the development of an exhibit on the history of popular music in Colorado, which is set to open in March of 2019.
The Tiny Library Concerts also allow both the museum and the artists to broaden their audiences. Brooke Gladstone, the museum’s communications and media specialist, explained that the “target audience is clearly to make that younger connection, but it’s a two way street [by] getting somebody in the door to expose them to museum but also getting somebody in the door who already knows the museum and exposing them to new music.”
For Marque, playing in the museum not only allows her to reach new fans, but also take on a platform to represent the various communities she’s a part of as an artist, Denver native, and woman of color. “I want to show the youth, especially young girls of color, that they can do stuff like this,” she said. “When you feel represented in that way, it kind of expands your mind to what you can do in the future. ” Further, the tiny library setting allows Marque to show her authenticity and purpose in a new, raw way. “I feel like there’s different intentions behind art and what people do, and I think something like this gives me a chance to kind of show that I personally am not about entertainment,” she said. “With the way things are going in the world, there’s a lot of artists that are speaking out about politics and they’re kind of being shut down… and that’s just so much bullshit to me, because as artists, these words and the music don’t just come from nowhere… so my intent behind what I create is not to entertain, it is to heal and it is to connect.” That connection Marque built at the tiny library show was undeniable, and the series will continue to pave way for many more of those connections to be made between Denver artists and their fans.
Sadly, the Tiny Library Concert series runs October through April, so there’s only one show remaining in this season. Next season’s concert schedule will be announced in August. In the meantime, be sure to check out the latest work of both Kayla Marque and Kid Astronaut—and continue to support local music.
All photography by Dan Fong.