The crowd is sparse, a. Once atop the stairs to the upper-level of seating he can be seen producing the soft hint of lovely music weaving itself through the coffee shop.
“The worst part is just waiting to go up there.” McManus told The VOICE when asked if he gets pre-show jitters.
“When I’m actually playing I don’t think I’m really that nervous, but when you have to wait you can have some tension.”
McManus sat in one of the many wooden chairs, and tuned his red electric guitar attached a single small amplifier. The first set began with an up tempo rhythmic number that faded into a more melancholy tune as he went on. Then the strumming picked up pace again and the upbeat melody returned.
This flirtation between light strumming and brooding dissonant plucks and reverb was a theme throughout the performance.
McManus frequently closed his eyes, his head swaying and lips moving as if they are conducting his performance.
Audience members trickled in and talked amongst themselves, treating McManus as background music, a fact he says he is prepared to handle. He explains that some musicians take the attitude of: “‘Well, I only play concerts where everybody has got to be listening,’” but Small World is a different sort of venue.
“I like to have a more diverse audience where people that are not necessarily familiar with the music…” McManus says.
A smiling couple sat cuddled up in back corner sipping their drinks and watching him play. A dreamy melody capped off the first set, and McManus accepted a light round of applause and takes a short break.
Small World barista, Christine, said she isn’t too familiar with jazz, being more into the indie rock scene, but she enjoyed McManus’s performance. Other patrons were less enthusiastic, one said that for a while he thought McManus was just adjusting the strings on his guitar, and that, though he liked jazz, he wasn’t into experimental varieties.
The second set, like the first, pulled in different melodic and rhythmic directions, but concluded in a major mode, just as it started. McManus provided a haunting and creative accompaniment to a quiet, college town night.
Terrence McManus will play again at Small World on Nov. 23 at 8:30pm.