The start of Imagine Music Productions, LLC.’s 2016 concert series got a joyful kick off with Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line on Thursday night at Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera House. Struthers, her band, and opener Nicole Jamrose delivered a worthy show to start off the year. With an intimate crowd, abundance of audience interaction, and two acts with incredible talent it was a show that was not one to be missed.
As all Imagine Music shows start out, the audience who attended the show created a buzz of anticipation for the night’s act. Many who attended the night’s show were there for either of the two acts, but there were also a few who were unfamiliar with the artists that were going to take the stage. That didn’t stop those people from expecting a great concert and one that would leave an impression on them for some time to come. Tod Gazdich was one who came to the show without much knowledge of the acts, but were confident that they’d enjoy the night regardless.
“We’ve come to a lot of Imagine Music shows, and are always impressed with the acts that take the stage. I don’t think that Nora Jane Struthers will change that.” Gazdich stated. “It’s great to have these concerts here in town. We’re expecting tonight to be another great night to add to the list.”
Though not all Imagine Music concerts have an opening act, Thursday’s opener was an artist - according to Imagine Music’s Rob Harkle “should’ve played a long time ago” - that fit the bill and is one that’s well known throughout the region: Nicole Jamrose. Jamrose, who has played the Opera House before, stated the ability to play at a theater is a welcome chance to play her original work - whether she was nervous about it or not.
“I’m a little nervous to play tonight, but what helps me is that the Opera House is still in my home region, my home town - it’s still my comfort zone. It’s like a security blanket knowing that when I look around I’ll see a few familiar faces, so it’s a welcoming crowd.” Jamrose stated. “What’s also nice about playing at this theater, any theatre in general, is that it lets people sit down and listen - as compared to a bar where we play and we’re usually an afterthought. Playing here allows us to play some original work, which we usually push aside in order to keep people on the dancefloor where we play. It’s nice to play people what we produce.”
Eventually Jamrose played a set full of her work, and a few covers as well, with delight to the people who were giving her their rapt attention. Shortly after the headliners took the stage, and certainly won over everyone’s expectations. Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line played a full gamut of their new work - a divulge into rock - and some in Nora Jane’s older catalogue of the springy folk and bluegrass that she established herself with. Struthers wasn’t just at the forefront of the show, she also had incredibly talented musicians that showcased what they had to offer. With an extended version of ‘Skillet Blues’ the “Party Line” plowed through their own solos that impressed their audience. The band also took a moment to walk off stage, stand in front of the crowd, and encouraged them to sing along - which they did, even if Struthers said that they “sound a bit frightened”. There were multiple duets from Struthers and her multi-instrumentalist Joe Overton, and Overton also took the mic to play some of his own work. The palpable fun energy allowed the show to be one that didn’t falter for a second.
Overall it was easy to see that Struthers gave the audience a warm reception by taking the time to joke, tell a story or two, and allowing them to be a big part of the show. Just as much as the audience welcomed her, she welcomed them right back.
“It’s good to play in a town that really knows what it cares about. As I was walking around and talking to a few I’ve come to realize that people really do care about this town, the arts, and this beautiful theatre.” Struthers stated. “It’s special to play in a place that puts that much value into the place they live in.”
With this year’s Imagine Music concert series off to a great start, it’s with high anticipation on what the rest of them will bring. Tickets are still available for all of the upcoming shows. They won’t be something to miss.