Last week’s Nooner was my first time listening to Alfa Garcia, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been the unwilling spectator at bizarre and ambitious indie shows where the discomfort is almost tangible. But without a doubt, watching Garcia was time well spent. She poured her sunshine onto the crowd and her sincerity canceled out the awkward anticipation that generally settles among first-time listeners. The Highlander crowd enjoyed themselves, and filled the afternoon with applause.
Garcia, an independent folk-pop artist from New Jersey, moved to Los Angeles two and a half years ago to pursue her music endeavors. An independent artist must have an unyielding devotion to get her name out there, become known and eventually sign with a record label. Entirely passionate about music, Garcia made most of her connections on her own, leading to her recent successes, with music from her latest album, “World Go Blue,” featured on E!’s “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and the Top 100 College Radio Chart.
But it’s challenging to be caught on the music radar, and those who do manage to get noticed may only be relevant for a limited amount of time. In a soulful music talk I recently shared with Garcia, she explained, “I have always treasured music. I would rather have a hard copy of an album. The beauty of music is that it is timeless and that’s what I want my music to be like.”
Her performance was perfect for fans of acoustic artists like Sara Bareilles and Feist. For her sound check, Garcia warmed up to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” The familiar melody traveled across the quad and turned the heads of shuffling students on campus. Garcia’s voice intrigued bystanders, and the chatter I heard from the audience revolved around the “chick on stage,” trying to recall what class someone had seen her in.
Garcia’s melodies were sensible and sweet; she accurately summed up her on-stage vibes by saying, “I’m the basic girl-next-door type.” Between songs, she provided bubbly commentary and college small talk. Garcia shared that she was a student at New York University, where she studied international relations. A college alumna who plays the guitar, piano, violin, ukulele and sings like a bird’s song — it’s safe to say this is what constitutes being well-rounded.
Garcia has been writing songs for 14 years and has studied with an orchestra for seven years. Her background in classical music and Filipino folk also influences her songwriting approach, and her lyrics borrow from 90s artists such as Jewel and Fiona Apple to create something distinctly unique. “I don’t need to put on any pretenses,” Garcia said. “I march to my own drum.” With five albums released, Garcia’s goal is to continue writing in the years to come. Aside from her singing career, she is a music instructor and teaches throughout the Los Angeles metro area.
The set continued with an acoustic compilation of pop hits that were woven together unexpectedly. She started with Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” then dove into Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and concluded with Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.” It’s always intriguing to listen to covers as they reflect the performer’s personal feel for the song; this musical concoction animated the audience, filling the air with the hum of lyrics to these well-known numbers. After all, it’s not hard to fall into body-swaying to Britney’s music.
Off her latest album, “World Go Blue,” Garcia sang “War” and revisited a nerdy song from 2010 titled “Pi Song,” which literally celebrates the algebraic symbol. She assured any math majors it would be a treat, but that enjoyment wasn’t limited to a single circle of listeners; everyone from the audience to the technician was very entertained. “My lyrics are very personal and confessional,” Garcia explained. “There’s going to be someone out there that feels the same way that I do. I want more people to hear what I’m doing.” And based on the size of the crowd at the Bell Tower, she was definitely heard.