Kickin’ it at Café Flo with local singer/songwriters Boy Tiger and Christian Gabriel
Christian Gabriel has a powerful voice. The young singer/ songwriter is putting the strength to good use before a mellow full house at Café Flo for an early evening of acoustic music. Leaning on this natural instrument, Gabriel hiccups from low to high and back (kind of like Dave Matthews) in the same percussive manner with which he plucks out his acoustic tunes.
There’s not a whole lot more to the songs. Voice and instrument move along, not wavering too far from the blueprint outlined above. Gabriel sings a cover of Ben Kweller’s ode to Vanilla Ice, “BK, Baby” ("Rollin’ in my gray Volvo with the ragtop down") and an original “dedicated to Mary Jane,” that starts off with the munchies: “Pork chops and applesauce…” It all runs together and pretty much sounds the same, but the crowd doesn’t mind at all. Like other local coffee shop venues—Has Beans, Moxie’s—Café Flo is a very intimate setting for live music, and the conversational rapport between audience and artist makes for pretty effortless communication. And that’s the beauty of most café scenes: Not only is it fairly easy to book a show, but the setup allows one to come in without a fully realized act and get some practice in front a live, and normally friendly, audience.
Tonight’s show was supposed to feature a couple of Washington state touring acts, Seattle’s Mini Life and Olympia’s 1985, but the bands missed a bus connection in Sacramento, so local opener Boy Tiger (Bethany Miller) recruited older brother Christian to do a tag-team of a couple of mini-sets each.
Boy Tiger kicked it off, and like her bro, Miller has a strong voice that booms during the chorus of the opening song, a rousing, punk-spirited cover of “Tracks of My Tears": “So take a good look at my face!”
This is how Miller pushed it all night, backing away from the mic in her black slip of a dress when sending through the roof her emotionally charged lyrics about not wanting to grow up, obscure horror movies and getting “fucked.”
And Miller is a natural performer. It’s enough of a visual to see the opposing “mother” and “father” tats on her forearms and the tall chick-hawk her hair was sprayed into, but like a good actress, Miller adds a wide personality range—via a coyly cocked head or a smoldering squinty-eyed stare—and completely takes control of the room.
The closer for her second set ("Forrest") is the tops this night. With the refrain of “I will piiiiick you up” sending a beaming café crowd into a mild Chico night.