I had to stand behind the sound guy on my tip-toes to get the perfect view of Joy & Peace Ike. The stage of the P H A R M A C Y, the understated club/cafe on a random corner of South Philly, is oddly placed in front of strangely placed pillars, blocking its view from half of the room. On a night as full as ours, it’s impossible to see the stage without standing in everyone’s way. For part of the show, I stood to the side, behind a pillar, closed my eyes and listened. However, I don’t believe it’s enough to simply hear Joy Ike’s music. Her person and her stage presence are both imperative to enjoying her music. That’s probably why she’s touring most of the year. There is just something about seeing Joy Ike play. She plays piano the way a classically-trained pianist was taught to – with the type of musicality that is both effortless and complex. It carries and sways you. It fills the entire room. Her voice is technically perfect, strong, yet emotionally compelling. Sweet, smooth, with the most gracefully, healthfully-placed roughness. Her sister, Peace, joins her on percussion for many of her more local shows. Their chemistry is something that can only be learned the way a sister’s bond is learned. Over time, patiently, without effort. There is something intimate and magical about watching them play together, like you’re being welcomed into the secret world of sisters.
This was our second time supporting Joy Ike on a bill. We met her first at The Outer Space in Hamden, CT. After a funny chat about swapping CDs (something she discusses in her blog, Grassrootsy), we left the show with her album, “All or Nothing” (2013). We placed it in the CD-player for the drive home, and were shocked to hear a fabulously produced, beautifully arranged, perfectly mixed independently-made album. Trust me when I tell you, this is rare. Thanks to the Grassrootsy post I linked above, and that funny conversation with Joy, we no longer swap CDs for bands we don’t love. Our merch box was getting packed full of homemade, poorly produced indie EPs, and we’d been trading our $10 album for them. It simply was no longer a cost-effective or joy-filled practice. However, in the case of “All or Nothing”, we would’ve paid over and above the asking price. Find out for yourself. “All or Nothing” can be found on iTunes, or on www.joyike.salesenvy.com. Pick it up!
My eyes filled with tears in that strange Philadelphia room. We were ending our third tour, and listening to Joy reminded me how clear and simple it felt to do something as crazy as independent music. Joy represents one of the greatest parts of indie music: the community. She is as beautiful of a person as she is a songwriter. Her empathy and willingness to connect with a plethora of life experiences are portrayed in her music. She is unmarried; yet her song “Time” speaks so directly to my experience of marriage, I feel as if she’s living it with me. Her song “Promised Land” eloquently communicates her experience of family, race and heritage like a rich novel, helping me understand something I’ve never lived. I sent her song “Home” to my sister-in-law to play as a lullaby for my sweet baby niece. “The Fall Song” makes me nostalgic for crunchy leaves beneath my boots. Every song I’ve heard Joy Ike play connects to a different room in my heart, or connects me to a part of the world that I’ve never stepped into. Art’s purpose is to connect people to themselves and others. This is why I became a musician. This is why I do what I do. This, I think, is why Joy does what she does. The colors which Joy Ike uses to paint humanity are subtle, relatable, and utterly fulfilling. She is the highest caliber of artist, professional, indie musician and human being.
Find more from Joy Ike at www.joyike.com.
This post is part of our “Better Together” series, which celebrates the independent music community with blog posts about indie artists & venues with whom we are proud to partner. Read more here, and stay tuned for future posts about the beautiful people we meet on the road. Click here to read more posts in the “Better Together” series.