Live at Ipanema: The Cinnamon Band goes acoustic

Samuel Roots

Contributing writer

A packed restaurant on a Sunday night speaks volumes. Last Sunday, Ipanema Cafe on Grace Street was just such a restaurant: Live at Ipanema, a free monthly show that typically features local acoustic artists, offered a late-night set from the Cinnamon Band, a duo from Staunton, VA.

Though the Cinnamon Band gears toward a densely amplified indie-rockabilly sound, like in their August EP “All Dressed,” Sunday’s show featured a rare acoustic set.

The performance area on Sunday night was crowded with friends standing and socializing while servers squeezed between them. The Cinnamon Band began their set at 11pm, as John Harouff strummed his guitar and Neil Campbell brushed at the drums.

The show was intimate, yet never wrapped up in its own weight: The duo bantered with the audience and themselves, with Campbell at one point joking that it was Harouff’s 17th birthday as Harouff sipped a beer, or Harouff’s self-deprecating announcements throughout the show that he was sick.

However, the intimacy never took away from the caliber of the performance: one of the most remarkable aspects of the show was the Cinnamon Band’s ability to say so much with such simplicity.  The addition of an accordion for the last two songs, playing simple patterns and progressions, pushed the sound to new heights. Harouff and Campbell’s vocals are also worth mentioning – both members exhibited great control in execution, and knew how to bounce off one another.

Cinnamon Band described their show at Ipanema as “completely different” than what they are used to – despite their apparent comfort and musical solidity on stage just minutes before.

“This time I had an excuse to feel uncomfortable,” said Harouff.  “It’s just more song oriented than sound oriented (in an acoustic show) … and it’s almost sacrilegious to think of our band playing acoustic – like it’s taking away its most distinctive things.” Campbell felt similarly, saying shows like at Ipanema “(put) more direct emphasis on the songs themselves,” as opposed to their sound.

Despite the band claiming it was a new experience for them, much of the response from the audience was positive: Many members of the audience were bobbing their heads to the groove and gave out loud rounds of applause when the songs were finished.

Even new patrons of the restaurant loved the show.  Sara Mason, a VCU freshman and Mass Communications major, described the Cinnamon Band’s set as “An interesting change from the heavier stuff (in Cinnamon Band’s recordings) – and it was perfect for the small restaurant atmosphere.”

The Cinnamon Band’s latest EP, “All Dressed Up,” debuted this August and is available for sample listening on their website,  Ipanema Cafe on Grace Street features a free-admission “Live at Ipanema” live music show on the first or second Sunday of every month, and can be visited at

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