Maybe I’m squarely in the prime demo, but I haven’t been able to escape the social media ads for this series of Candlelight concerts going on in Richmond this Summer. I’m not complaining, the algorithm was right. I was very interested. From a glance at the ads while I would scroll, every iteration of the series sounded dope. A string quintet interpreting Hanz Zimmer? Queen? The Beatles? When I saw the Radiohead one, I had to make a plan to attend, because, that’s just rad. And by extension, I had to figure out who’s idea this was.
The answer to that last was Fever. They’re an events company with a sprawling reach all over the globe. Which surprised me a little. For something so esoteric as classical imaginings of “Fat Bottom Girls” and “Mamma Mia”, you’d think this to be the product of a passionate music nerd and their cool friends. Fever has put on these classical reconstructions of popular music in every major city (and a ton of minor ones) in the world. The more I looked into them and the musicians that participated, the more interesting the story got. I’m gonna get to the review in a second, but I think it’s worth noting the creatives behind the series. Because it is stupid cool. The event that is. I’m sure the people are too, but I don’t know them like that.
So, Fever describes itself as a “global live-entertainment discovery platform” that specializes in unique immersive experiences. They’ve been putting on the Candlelight series since 2019. What started as an effort to democratize the enjoyment of classical music morphed into an effort to re-imagine popular bands with classical arrangements. They’ve produced evenings dedicated to the music of Queen, ABBA, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran, as well as shows dedicated to K-Pop, movie soundtracks and, in this case, Radiohead (amongst many others). The experience has evolved to feature different elements, such as ballet dancers or aerial performers, as well as other genres, such as jazz, soul, opera, flamenco and more. They’ve put these on in more than 100 cities worldwide, with over 3 Million tickets sold.
They’ve partnered with the Listeso Music Group (which, if you’re a freelance musician, you should absolutely look into) an agency that represents freelance musicians all over the world. For events, session recordings, and such. The performers on the evening we attended were very well-rehearsed and expressive while interpreting some extremely emo music. It seemed like a great time to be a violinist. Making Johnny Greenwood’s music soar with emotion seems inevitable but they really put every tear and sigh into its right place with style.
It seems another part of their mission is to utilize non-intuitive but culturally relevant venues for their exhibitions. Have you been to the Bolling-Haxall House on W. Franklin? Because I hadn’t. I had no idea it existed. It’s gorgeous. Evidently, a dude named Bolling Haxall Walker went to Brooklyn, saw a house he liked, and had it built in Richmond in 1858. Not for nothing, but he had incredible taste. The place is bonkers. Beautifully carved spiraling staircases, plush red velvet furniture and drapes, and a massive theater in the nave of the building. Complete with balcony seats. It underwent massive renovations in 1990 and is currently supported by a foundation in its name and is home to The Woman’s Club – a literary and cultural club established in 1894. They tout themselves as a “respectfully provocative” outlet designed for the “delightful friction of well-trained minds”. I want to join yesterday.
I reached out to Fever and got a hold of Amanda Boucault, the PR and Communications Coordinator. She gave my wife and I a couple tickets to the later show on a Wednesday evening to catch the Radiohead edition of the series. I am going through all this preamble because the evening was delightful, and made more so because of all the things above. To say we went to see some violinists play “Creep” doesn’t do the experience justice.
With fear of TMI, we were having a perfectly normal nonsensical argument, as spouses do, on the ride over. We reeeally needed a date night. We arrived with “how did we not know this place was here” vibes and led to our seats in the darkened aforementioned theatre. The stage was lit with hundreds of candles, the battery-powered amber hued ones, because insurance doesn’t cover obvious fire hazards. The mood was stroked by the serene (and kinda sexy) stage design that whispered “chill out” after a pretty hectic day. It worked.
Places taken and the crowd in anticipation, a loudspeaker started talking to us. I could have done without that but I let it go. “No photos til the last song, turn off your phone, da da da etc” and so forth. Seemed a little jarring but that’s the only thing that struck me so.
The moment the five musicians took the stage until we left the building smiling, was blissful. The quintet took their seats and with a count off delved into “Everything in its Right Place”. If you didn’t think that song could be more beautiful, you’re wrong. So many of these songs translate into this arrangement so well, I would totally believe this was their intended form.
To add cute to charm, the musicians took turns after a brief set or between a significant track in the Radiohead oeuvre to discuss the album it came from, the story behind the lyrics, and a personal attachment if there was one. It’s not hard to find a person deeply affected by Radiohead, especially musicians. The anecdotes felt familiar and very sincere. The audience was clearly packed with fans. You could sense the glee when they announced “Karma Police”, praised the pop art of In Rainbows, discussed the despair of “Creep”, and closed with a raucous “Paranoid Android”. The show lasted a little over an hour and felt like a massage for the soul. We left the venue, now dark outside, and emerged a little lighter, holding hands.
Fever has a bunch of these coming up in Richmond. Don’t scroll past the ads in your Facebook feed. Check it out. Especially if you’ve been arguing with your partner.
Check out the full schedule for Richmond HERE