It could have been the music. It could have been the ice cream. But it was probably a combination of both. Because at midnight on May 17, a crowd of about 200 20- and 30-somethings, were still energized, sweaty and dancing in celebration of the release of local pop musician Micah E. Wood’s self-titled album.
Wood, upon taking the stage, figuratively, — all performers played on the ground, eye level with show-goers — was surprised that he was still awake.
“I’m Micah E. Wood, and it is way past my bedtime,” he told the audience.
The concert at The Charmery Ice Cream Factory near Hampden also featured performances by local supporting acts Al Rogers Jr., Outcalls and Super City. Like Wood and The Charmery owners, David and Laura Alima, who met as camp counselors at Habonim Dror Camp Moshava in Bel Air, Britt Olsen Ecker of Outcalls and Jon Birkholz of Super City are also Jewish.
Wood said the evening, “felt like an adult bar mitzvah.”
When Wood last spoke to the JT in March, the idea of releasing his album both excited him and wracked his nerves. On the day of the release, not much had changed.
“I feel weird, but good. It’s a good weird,” Wood said. “It switched from weird-weird to good-weird. I’ve never had a record where people cared right out of the gate. I’ve gotten texts all day from people who have listened to it.”
The album, which Wood said is best experienced when listened to as a whole, rather than song by song, seamlessly hops genres, even within a single song. Opening track, “Summertime,” features a melodic choral foundation throughout the song, adding electronic percussion and spoken word poetry, before eventually crashing into a rock refrain. The live band backing Wood gave the lively-but-restrained songs on the album a loud, energetic jolt.
Included in the elbow-to-elbow crowd were members of Wood’s family, who not only traveled several hours to be there, but contributed art and helping hands for the event. Wood’s brother Ronin, who Wood said is his best friend, came from New York City, digitized, edited and projected old family videos, synchronized with the songs from Wood’s album. One of the videos included a very young Wood, between 3 and 5 years old, and other boys wearing yarmulkes at his old Virginia Beach religious school.
“Hebrew Academy at Tidewater,” recalled Wood’s mother Eileen, who came from Newport News, Virginia, with Wood’s father Stephen. Eileen could easily be mistaken for a local, already on a first-name basis with most of the performers and other attendees.
“The only person I haven’t met is the other owner, but he sounds like as much of a mensch as Micah,” she said, referring to David Alima.
Birkholz of Super City seconded Eileen’s Micah-as-a-mensch notion by saying, “He’s a longtime supporter of the music scene. I’ve never heard him say anything bad about any other band or musician, which you can’t say about a lot of people.”
In addition to playing keyboard and guitar with his own band, Birkholz joined a group of at least 10 performers who made up Wood’s backing band that evening. Olsen-Ecker of Outcalls, a classically trained singer who credits her lifelong music interest, in part, to what she heard at shul growing up, also pulled double duty. For Olsen-Ecker, performing with a group of close friends is as good as it gets.
“It’s the best. It’s all of the great things that Baltimore’s music scene has to offer,” she said. “We all know each other, we all love each other and we all do our best to lift each other up. It’s a really fun group.”
And a fun venue. Though beer was available, the almost entirely adult crowd was easily more excited about the complimentary scoop of ice cream included in the price of admission. Lauren Alima said that Wood and her husband first connected through Instagram and planned event details by messaging each other back and forth. To honor Wood, The Charmery created a special vegan “Micah E. Wood,” coconut-lemon-ginger-flavored ice cream.
“This is a big deal for him to be able to put out his album,” said Alima. “To be able to be there as a venue for his support system feels really special.”
Alima, along with Wood’s parents, worked the front door, taking money or tickets, stamping hands and handing out ice cream vouchers. Despite the long drive, Eileen didn’t mind helping out.
“They’ve all worked so hard putting this together, I didn’t want them to have to hire someone to do this,” Eileen said. “Anything for Micah.”