An Extraordinary Evening in New Haven: Greg Greenway with Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage on keyboards
Rachael Sage on keyboards

A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye,
The eye made clear of uncertainty, with the sight
Of simple seeing, without reflection.
We seek Nothing beyond reality
–Wallace Stevens, “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”

On Sunday, I accidentally cosplayed the opening act and she admirably didn’t freak out.

It was the moment in March when putting on jeans yet again feels unbearable, so I put on leggings with a skirt, and matching accessories, and my riding boots (should have gone with the combat boots)… and there I am, sitting in the front row at mActivity Center, four feet from Brooklyn alt-pop artist Rachael Sage, who is wearing a much snazzier, quirkier, brighter-colored version of the same outfit.

I’d say I’m embarrassing to know, but in this case, I’m just as embarrassing when you don’t know me. This was my first visit to mActivity Center, which holds Sunday night concerts in the earnest peacefulness of an old factory in East Rock. I was there because the emcee at Jesse Terry’s show told me I was going to see Greg Greenway that night (he’s at Voices Café in Westport on April 13, so that’s a plug.).

If I were ashamed of not recognizing major names in various music subgenres, I’d never manage to leave the house–and no matter how revered you are, there’ll always be someone who hasn’t heard you and would be thrilled if they did. So there I was in the front row of a venue where the real fans had staked out the far-back sofas, trying to convey enthusiastic support without letting on that I had really no idea what was going on.

Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage writes luminous alt-pop songs about the dimensions of nurturing a sense of self amidst the struggles of the big city. She was accompanied for this gig by violinist Kelly Halloran, giving the sound a haunted folk slant.

While the instrumentation is relatively sparse, the combination of rock piano with hints of diverse influences (some definitely classical) in intense slice-of-life vignettes of tightly knit metaphors gave me some of the same feelings I get from hearing Springsteen– but from a perspective closer to what I experienced as a young woman in the big city (the Minneapple, don’t laugh).

Here’s “Spark,” which takes an unusual slant on intimacy.

Sage has something like 18 records in her discography, runs her own label… what you very quickly discover in checking out women musicians is how many are multi-media, multi-task talents. Jennifer Hill of Murderous Chanteuse runs the successful SWAN Day CT arts festival, now in its twelfth year; Dani Mari (who I’ll get to see at SWAN Day CT) is a founder of the Female Frequency… I flip through Instagram of very young acts, and they’re designing things… the level and scope of talent that drives women’s indie careers is exalting and terrifying.

Rachael Sage is currently on tour (possibly at SXSW at this exact moment).

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Greg Greenway

Fortunately, Greg Greenway did not choose to ditch pants for leggings and a skirt. He’s the reason I’m quoting Wallace Stevens, as he quoted “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” — and I’m grateful it’s all modernist symbolism where people would be just as pointless and desperate in Providence, as I”m ride-or-die for my city by the Sound.

Greg Greenway is a folk legend.

He brings a rich store of experience to the stage — that sounds like something a Louisa May Alcott heroine would say of the Sunday afternoon performer at a proper entertainment in Boston in 1862, and that’s not entirely off-base, as you’re about to be regaled with stories, enlightened, made to laugh (possibly to cry), to hear incredible vocals (range, resonance, you got it), and to hear the ukulele played by picking, which makes it sound like a Spanish guitar. He will not always be totally proper, having lived through interesting times and having mistakes to tell about.

“My Good Name” gives a sense of the experience (minus the ukulele).

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The mActivity experience is one I heartily recommend — they obviously can book great acts, and you get comfortable seats and cheap wine or beer, plus if you don’t want to be home by 10:30, there is a brewpub in the same building.

East Rock concert series schedule


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