BOP STOP at The Music Settlement is Cleveland's premier listening room: an intimate, acoustically pristine performance venue with sweeping views of Lake Erie.
This show has sold out.
We are excited to welcome back to BOP STOP pianist, Holly Bowling! It has been nearly six years since Holly was last at the BOP STOP. We also recommend purchasing your tickets in advance for this show as her last two performances have sold out. Tickets to attend this show are $25 each in advance and $30 at the door. This show will not be livestreamed.
Cast aside any and all expectations.
Whether behind the piano on a windswept mountainous cliff, at a hallowed venue such as Carnegie Hall, or playing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most legendary musicians in history, solo pianist Holly Bowling subverts convention with virtuosic playing, emotional immersion, and a thirst for invention. Acclaimed by Rolling Stone, Billboard, Relix, and more and sought-after by icons such as Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Warren Haynes, she once again flips the script on her 2020 album and second reimagining of Grateful Dead staples entitled Seeking All That’s Still Unsung.
“When you go to see someone play solo piano, you’re not expecting them to stand up, pluck the strings, drum on the frame, hit the strings with mallets, or place magnets and EBows inside of the piano,” she smiles. “It doesn’t fit with the expectations of how you’re supposed to play this instrument. I think it works though.”
Her introduction to the instrument happened at just five-years-old when mom and dad bought a piano from a yard sale down the street. They gave their daughter a choice: ballet or piano. As the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, and The Grateful Dead piped through their home, she obviously chose the latter without hesitation.
After a childhood dedicated to the instrument, she studied piano performance at SF State University. Intermittent gigs around San Francisco followed before she ended up on stage for an impromptu jam with Marco Benevento. “I paid him a dollar to go up there,” she recalls. “It reminded me that for most of my life I wanted to be on stage playing, and I couldn’’t let that slip away.”
After catching a 2013 Phish show in Lake Tahoe renowned for its extended rendition of “Tweezer,” she transcribed and arranged the entire 37-minute improvisational masterpiece into a nuanced and intricate piano opus. She humbly refers to it as “a nerdy pet project that somehow inspired people to demand Phish on piano.” It announced her arrival as an exciting outlier and paved the way for Distillation Of A Dream: The Music Of Phish Reimagined For Solo Piano in 2015.
As her profile rose, she delivered Better Left Unsung only a year later. For this triple-LP, she re-arranged iconic moments from the Grateful Dead on her piano. It bowed in the Top 25 of the Billboard Top Classical Albums Chart. She went on to share the stage with everyone from The Dead’s Weir and Lesh to Haynes, John Scofield, Jim James, Branford Marsalis, Don Was, Robert Randolph, Greensky Bluegrass, and more. Along the way, she graced the bills of Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads and Haynes’s annual Christmas Jam and unveiled the concert recording Live at the Old Church. Simultaneously, she co-founded improvisational rock outfit Ghost Light in 2018. Engaging a faithful audience even in the midst of the “new normal” of 2020, she launched a series of living room livestreams chronicled on the eight-volume Alone Together: The Living Room Sessionshighlighted by her innovative re-imaginings of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and many others.
During 2019, she tracked Seeking All That’s Still Unsung at 25th Street Recording in Oakland over the course of just five days.
"Seeking All That’s Still Unsung is a lyric from a Dead song,” she explains. “There was definitely a sense of trying to look for what I hadn’t said on the last album. Having spent a few more years exploring the Dead’s music in the solo piano context, I felt free enough to take more liberties with how I approach the arrangements and improvisation. I can insert myself into the songs more. Given their nature, I realized the way to actually be the truest to them is to throw the rules out the window.”
Under the influence of the Bill Evans album Conversations with Myself, she properly incorporated overdubs for the first time, locking into a “dialogue” with her own playing. She tried her hand at this approach on Better Left Unsung’s “Dark Star,” but truly brought it to life here.
On the opener and first single “St. Stephen,” her fingers nimbly conjure a melody between bass-y root notes. The call-and-response instantly captivates with all of the drama and dynamics of a main stage festival performance.
“It’s like you’re watching a movie,” she explains. “The scene changes, and the colors and lighting just shift. Something new comes into focus, and the improv goes further. It’s not what I expected to come out of the arrangement initially, but it’s a defining moment on the album. It has the intensity of the overdubbing and some light and dark places to showcase a different range of emotions.
Elsewhere, the sprawling near 14-minute “Weather Report Suite” traverses a similar scope as her transcendent playing spirals towards a climactic release. The project culminates on a delicate “Stella Blue,” which she calls “the perfect landing point of the album and an exhale at the end after this emotional ebb and flow.”
In advance of Seeking All That’s Still Unsung, she embarked on The Wilderness Sessions—a virtual concert tour of natural wonders across the United States. Setting up her piano in the heart of national parks and landmarks such as Yosemite National Park, the Bonneville Salt Flats, Bruneau Canyon, the Beartooth Mountains, and the Badlands of South Dakota, she catalyzed the "Interaction between the music and the landscape.”
In the end, Holly consistently redefines what’s possible on her instrument of choice.
“When I play pure stripped-down acoustic piano, it’s like going home,” she leaves off. “I love the nuance, detail, and emotion you can pull out of a piano in a more subtle and quiet setting. The moments I cherish the most happen when I slip outside of myself for a while. If my music gives this to someone else, that would make me happy. There are shades of classical and shades from the Grateful Dead. A lot of classical enthusiasts might not give the Dead a chance. Many Deadheads may not like classical. Personally, I’ve always had two halves of my musical life. When I finally started to bring them together, it was something I’d been building towards for a lot longer than I’d realized. Bringing everything together, I’d love to open up boundaries and help people discover something new.”Back to Calendar