The Italian Bakery, in Victoria, B.C., houses alongside it this wonderfully intimate and cosy restaurant, La Piola. Jessica performed there for us, March 24th, 2012, yet as if just for me, although there were some thirty or so patrons at the tables. Some people came in as though familiar with the place, with Jessica doing her set in the corner. With an air of respect, almost of reverence, the kitchen staff and waitresses wandered amongst us, taking food orders and serving drinks, while Jessica played her guitar and sang, or harped along on her harmonica. And the music, like chords of accord, enveloped us in an atmosphere of camaraderie and well being. Jessica mesmerized our chatter into sustained silences. She plucked at our feelings with her words. She strummed on our consciousness with her guitar. She melded us into a family of friends, though strangers most of us were to each other, with her charm and interest in us, and with the warmth, intensity, and soulfulness of her performance, tune after tune.
La Piola as an eatery enticed us to Jessica's concert following our asking about the poster we saw of the upcoming performance. One of the friendly proprietors, who also doubles as a chef, Kyle, let us know just how gifted she is. Jessica plays a multiple of instruments, takes requests, did some standards, and wowed us with her original material too. And the food also is something to be savored. The menu is diverse enough to suit most palettes, the wine and beer suited to the dishes, and the casual family-style service charming and endearing. Several visits, each at separate times of the day, have pleased us very much. Excellent taste for a great price. But the cap on our experience at La Piola on Quadra street was the evening with Jessica. She treated us as though we were old friends. She came up at intermission, shared some of her story, ensured she repeated our names, and even at the end of the night used our names to bid farewell.
Jessica Benini's CD, available for a mere $10.00 in the basket where she performs, is one of those Canadian treasures. As a first CD is it has a resonance that far surpasses its cost. The original songs, with titles like 'precious time', have a profound reach, a haunting quality that could become as familiar to us as any classic album. She is a star in the making. Imagine if you had been able to go to a Joni Mitchell performance when the twenty-something young Joni was just beginning? Imagine if you still had the first copy of a Joni record before she was "discovered"? That's just one of the reasons why investing in, listening to, and attending and enjoying a Jessica Benini concert is so worthwhile. Canada has produced very many wonderful stars; Jessica shines bright as a new discovery in the firmament.
As a songbird Jessica Benini has a voice with a dynamic and alluring range. Her expertise on the guitar, on her harmonicas, and with people, is superb. You would be privileged to be at one of her concerts; Jessica herself would make you feel that way. Then again, like all events "not to be missed", you would just have to be there. Yes?