Yay! Mama Doll was the headliner, so they went on last, and they were great. They aren't the same group I fell in love with, though. Originally, it was just the honey-voiced Sarah Berentsen on ukulele dueting with Austen Case and her single drum; the pair produced haunting, smoky tunes with minimal accouterments. Now, Austen is gone and Sarah has been joined by Jen Landis on bass, Claire Fieberg on guitar and vocals, Kris Hafso on drums (with a full kit), and occasionally (like last night) Bart Budwig on trumpet. Sarah's ukulele and guitar are amplified now, too, and there's even a keyboard.
not last night
Well, it's not Dylan going electric, but it was still a bit of a change.
Nonetheless, the band is still great. Sarah opens her mouth and magic comes out - this is the kind of music that can summon spirits and open doorways to souls. Her new teammates provide excellent support, both musically and vocally. I was not disappointed after my long wait.
Okay: The middle act was Windoe. I wish I could say that I had enjoyed them more, but they were the weakest link of the night - the band played series of sort-of psychedelic rock tunes with little tonal or thematic variety. But they were in a challenging position, sandwiched between the other performers that night.
Best for last: The opening act was Shenandoah Davis, and here was the surprise of the night. The entire house was blown away by this performer's passion, both in her vocals and in her piano playing. Her bandcamp tags are avant-garde classical parlour music pop singer-songwriter Seattle and that's probably pretty accurate, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.
Shenandoah Davis plays the piano like she was driving a diesel tractor-trailer rig up a mountain switchback in a storm, and she delivers a metric ton of torches with every load. Davis physically engages the piano not just with her fingers but with seemingly every muscle in her body, her shock of black curls tossing and her shoulders rolling as she pushes and shoves the music out of the instrument and into the world. Her piano pounds and booms with impossibly complex melodies while her beautiful, high-pitched voice cuts through the soaring music and her deceptively simple lyrics cut though your unsuspecting heart.
It's been a long time since I was moved so strongly by a performance. I don't go out to live music often (why it's clearly a blogworthy event) but I am going to go see Shenandoah Davis whenever I can. And you should too.
This clip doesn't do her justice - she needs at least a baby grand, not a little keyboard, to really open it up and roar - but it will give you a taste.