My first Calvin Johnson live experience was in Moscow, Idaho at a little cafe. He stood on this little rickety wooden chair that looked as though it was about to collapse. The room was dark and he towered over everyone. He hit The Business on Saturday at What The Heck Fest and, like that first experience, this one was packed. I could hear him in the background, but the sheer quantity of people packing the small Anacortes record store kept the visuals at a minimum. Thankfully, I had a chance to see him perform yet again that afternoon at Causland Park, this time with the backing band The Hive Dwellers.
Johnson is entertaining in any setting. He plays with words both in song and side banter, nearly always with a humorous tone. With The Hive Dwellers, however, these elements are exaggerated. He strolled across the lawn sans a microphone, holding his trusty acoustic guitar and singing in his signature deep voice, occasionally moving and twisting his body awkwardly to the cool drum beat and hip keyboard accompanying him. The performance was astounding, the banter less than his solo stage presence, and the music perfect for Johnson’s brilliant demeanor.