So, the day. It started out CAFFEINATED (a rare state for me, and I forget how much fun, in a borderline manic way, it can be. LEGAL STIMULANTS! WHOOO!) The Aramark grill guy made my day so shiny by accommodating my grilled cheese request with sang froid and a smile. (Half American, half Swiss, tomato.) UMmmm. Then I got to eat said just-right sandwich outside in the breezy sunshine with Austen for company. Is my lunch break worth blogging about? I don't know. I don't want to question the value of my lunch recollections to a constantly replenishing content stream that always appears to be reaching, but never actually reaches saturation. But it really was such a damn nice lunch, you guys. I wish every worker insect could have a lunch that nice today.
So there was lunch and all the workday after that. Then I took off to see Molly Zenobia play at PA's lounge. Ok, the show. So first off, I can't remember ever having taken the train all the way to Lechmere, but let me say, elevated train ride on a clear spring night with a hibiscus tea sunset steeping into the water? Worth taking.
And this is where the serendipity of the evening began, because right away I recognized the bartender, a Post-Meridian Radio Players actor. She was busy drilling a bartender-trainee but made time to chat for a bit and mixed me her $3 drink special, a raspberry lime rickey-like thing. That's a very pleasant tasty booze thing for $3. Then came about an hour of wallflower time with my tasty drink while I waited for the show to start. I've only been to PA's once before, for an In Gowan Ring show, years ago. I forget that most venues in Boston the terms "doors open" or "start times" are very nebulous things and...yeah, the point is, PA's is the kind of place where "doors open" gives you an hour's start time to chat with your friends or sit around wishing you hadn't bothered to run to catch the trolley. (Yeah, note to self, self, you haaaaate getting to shows early when you're alone and conspicuous in a huge empty room, so don't hoof it to a show at PA's. Or TT's Or to a lesser extent Great Scott. Lilypad is ok.) But this a perfect moment to note that Molly Zenobia is seriously one of the nicest people alive. I've been going to see her play for like seven years now, ever since she came to perform at Chumley's (a Brandeis coffeehouse.) She's always made a point of coming up to me to say hello, to thank me for being there, and generally trying make me feel like I was the one doing her a favor by attending. It's extremely sweet behavior, and any other person with adult social skills would be able to get past the tongue tied I'm-talking-to-a-rockstar stage and make conversation when someone that unpretentious and genuine is coming up to them with a smile. But, seriously, I'm just like, say Fiona Apple, say, was a local musician who played your gross neighborhood bars and kicked ass in front of a crowd of thirty and then came by to say hello to you...um? How do you be casual? No, really, I'd like to be less of a dork. So, anyway, she came by and said hello and made me feel less like a dork. And she gave me her drink token. OMG, so nice.
The first band was Happy the Clown. I've never heard these folks before. I lack the genre vocabulary to categorize it - loud wall of guitar and a male vocal that sort of lulls you into an uneasy holding pattern? I wasn't really watching any of the musicians. The band set up a projector screen directly in front of the stage that sucked up all the attention. They played a slide show of images. The pictures seemed to fall into three categories: extremely gross, clinical closeups of teeth and gums, a set of fashion spreads from some glossy magazine, and other random images, mostly naked people looking particularly decrepit. Altogether the effect was tritely offputting, but kind of hypnotic at the same time. (Then again, I'm one of those people who can't tear their eyes off a screen if it's in the room.)I kind of like the idea of a concert slides. It's a way to illustrate the music, like a spare music video. But I wasn't keen on this. They also had some strobe-y stuff going on, and one of the band members had on this blinky migraine trigger necklace which made we want to stab something when it was pointed in my direction, which fortunately wasn't often.
One nice thing about all the sets that night is that the musical styles led really fluidly into one another. Next up was Cober, Sheila Bommakanti's solo act. The show was actually in her honor. It's her farewell concert before she leaves Boston. Ok, I want to use the word "trance-like" about her stuff, but I know zero about trance music and I'm sure I'd be using the word wrong, so I'm going to go with the the same lazy word I used for Happy and call it hypnotic. She spun out tense threads on a double guitar and sang, droning but in a completely great way. (that's not a backhanded compliment, honest. Medieval chant music, for instance, is magnificent droning.) I picked up a CD and I'm looking forward to listening to it to get into a good meditative flow state. (Like Molly, she comes across as very warm and personable, and seemed quite wistful about leaving Boston.) I'm glad I got to hear her before she left.
Then there was the second bit of serendipity of the night. I knew there were two acts coming up, Molly Zenobia and Jaggery. I thought Molly was up next, so I nipped out and called Brian, who had sweetly offered to pick me up after the show, and told him Molly was about to go on, and if he showed up in an hour, it would be just about right. I had no desire to not see Jaggery, it was just going to be a late night and I was there to hear Molly. As it happened, I got it wrong and it was actually Jaggery setting up. I had actually heard them play once or twice before, but only a song or two. I think both times they played after I'd seen whoever I wanted to see (they travel in musical circles I like to follow, how about that,) generally when I was already tired and headachy and wanted to go home. I'd never really given them a fair shot. But tonight...Wow. It was fucking amazing to be in that room. Mali Sastri on keyboard and vocals. Molly sang backup on a few songs and some mystery man whose name I cannot discover played drums. Oh, they were so excellent. Mali's voice rises to delicious bat-like altitudes. It ranges wide and dips and trills; scales walls and dives off them. Her drummer? Romanced that kit. He kept it up hard and fast when necessary but reigned it in with luxurious softness and didn't forget to scrape the cymbals, and no, that is not a dirty metaphor. Also. I love it when I can see musicians communicate with each other on stage. It's body language, it's eye contact and a smile, and let me tell you, Mali and drummer had a smoldering collaboration. From what I understand, Jaggery is Mali and a rotating cast of bandmates but seriously I hope she keeps this one. Soft drumming. So. Hot.
I haven't mentioned Molly in the Jaggery mix...she was excellent, natch, supporting but not overpowering, tamping her own thing down a little but still giving some luminous backgrounds for Mali to draw on.
So that was Jaggery. I've rhapsodized about Molly before, and the purple prose just comes. I'm sorry, but it will not be repressed. I can honestly say there is no musician I would rather hear live. Her voice is a tide that cradles and supports you and takes you under. Her songs are swims through reef and shipwreck. (She had a drummer too - he was fine, but the drums are just there to back Molly and her incredibly fluent piano, not to feature.) Molly had mentioned to me that she was going to play some older songs, and she played "whirl-pool." This is a duet that Molly sings with her own recorded voice on the album. Live, she sang it with Mali. I'm so happy I got to be alive to be in that room and hear that song.
Brian came in after Molly played a song or two, and, once I explained my start-time mix-up was ok with staying till the end, which was AWESOME, and then took me home in a car that he purposely stocked with post-show strawberries. Perfect evening.
So here's the big squee: Molly and Jaggery are going to be playing a show together tomorrow! It's called "From the Inside Out" (Thursday 4/23, 7:30) And "together" does not just mean they are sharing the venue, this is a collaborative show, meaning my oldest and newest favorite local bands will be mooshing together in various configurations for an evening that promises to be totally glorious. It's at the Lilypad (1353 Central St. in Inman, right by 1369) which is a good venue for this kind of thing - it's an intimate, warm, artsy little postage stamp of a place and you get to sit down. Also they start on time.
More on why This is actually the 3rd collaborative show Molly's done. The first I somehow missed hearing about, which naturally kills me so we'll just move right along. The second show was called "Silhouettes:" an interactive collaborative show with Molly, Nate Greenslit, Natalie Thompson and Vessela Stoyanova of Goli and Fluttr Effect, and Brendan Burns. (Actually I have a drummer recognition problem and I can't remember if the drummer was actually Nate, I'm just going by Molly's site.) It was awesome, if a little rough-edged. All of them did a little solo stuff as well as stuff together. Brendan is an unassuming-looking man who makes hilarious faces. I'm sure whatever he does to a guitar must be fiendishly difficult, but it sounds like a hammock and lemonade, like a dog sleeping on a sunny porch. Just wonderfully mellow, summery music. Natalie plays the cello and sings. Molly Piano Natalie Cello was an interesting and welcome flavor. What I love about Natalie in Goli is how she makes her cello do all sorts of percussive things, and her voice is weird and great - if it were tv, I'd call it a dramedy. The songs, also, are mostly serious, but many are rich with humor. Also, she is one the happiest looking people I've ever seen and she makes you want to smile back. Vessela is ferocious on the electric marimba, which, by the way, looks like an alien culture took a xylophone and crossed it with a Simon and sounds like anything you want it too, but usually like magical space-bells. Damn, it's cool. Vessela is, too. She did a couple of folk songs, singing, which I've never heard her do before - like Molly, I am so bowled over by her talent and poise that she seems invincible. But there was something vulnerable about her singing (it reminded me oddly of Mary Lou Lord, although they don't sound anything alike,) and I felt priveleged as an audience to sit in. One of the very coolest things about the show is how the silhouette theme came through in the music: the musicians drew their own silhouettes, added notes to the line drawing, and then composed pieces based on them. On interactivity: Molly made a game where you guessed the names of famous silhouettes. Even better, taught the audience a phrase from a song and invited us to sing with her. The night was so rich and fun and the musicians on stage made themselves so likable that a few slip-ups here and there were charming and forgivable. (An instrument forgotten until the song started, much dithering before starting to sing, etc.) Apparently all the performers were heading to Bukowski's afterward and we were all encouraged to join, but it was a late and not a ride night so I had to head home.
Anyway. So now you know: Jaggery/Molly Zenobia mashup. Not to be missed.