And then the giant cat picture fell on the drummer.
It was a lively Wednesday night at MAC650 Gallery in Middletown, with three alternative-pop bands fronted by searing female vocals: Quinn, Similar Kind, and Mauno (who also performs some male-fronted songs). The show was suggested to me by CTVerses, who is awesome and whose blog you should be reading regularly.
MAC650 combines an art gallery with a performance space — much as I love my New Haven bar/club options, one special thing about MAC650 is that people do not talk loudly over the opener. (Another is the leather sofa, if you get lucky, and the existence of electric plugs, if you want to take video but your phone is getting low.) Park in the lot by ION Market if you can, as that one has long-term meters, so you can fit in dinner before parking becomes free at 8 p.m. Wednesday’s excitement featured a classic-car show, so I enjoyed going up to Middletown plenty early and strolling past shiny shiny old cars.
Quinn is, at the moment, vocalist and guitarist Quinn and bass player Zach. Quinn brings a powerful, haunting voice that makes any song anthemic, along with songwriting chops to create trenchant lyrics about rage, frustration, and disappointment. The tone is Sarah McLachlan, the content is Liz Phair or Alanis Morisette.
Zach is the kind of bass player you want to pick up at Bass Player Speed-Dating Night, as he takes pictures with a real camera (kindly not blocking anyone else’s sight lines), can probably drive a manual transmission, and befriended the Attack Cat Picture. I chose this song for its commentary on the Connecticut weather (which on that day went from “warm and sunny” to “freezing your ass off in flannel”). There is an EP promised in the future, possibly with a full band.
This Norwalk-based band, fronted by Julia Breen, promises “making tunes for you and your mom to listen to.” (And that was the moment when it dawned on me that I’m the mom’s generation, and it darn well is music women my age should like, so good call.) There are layers of retro feel — one layer hearkens to alternative rock in the cheerful moment right before rock took over, another is to late-1980s pop, a third goes all the way back to the AM radio trend of 1940s pop hits that I recall fondly from the mid-1990s (Millennials didn’t invent hipsterism). The result is a timeless, musically cheerful pop confection with an alt-rock edge. It not only demands to be danced to, it demands that you buy a fresh pair of Vans for that purpose.
“Seasons” was simply my favorite of a lively and engaging show. There’s an EP on Bandcamp where even the introspective songs will bring sunshine that if the current weather keeps up, you will need.
Listening to Canadian visitors Mauno, I was thinking: “Is alternative folk a thing?” The overall electric guitar-driven vibe is alt-rock, while the vocals often feel like they should be sung to a Selkie, while sitting on a lonely rock facing the north Atlantic. The overall effect is a dreamlike blending of genres and allusions, as if your university philosophy department decided to form a party-rock band. You can rock out to it — in some parts, I dare you not to — yet it has the feel of both roots-and-bones and intensely experimental concepts.
Lyrical credits are divided between Eliza Niemi and Nick Everett, whose backgrounds encompass classical cello and R&B (hers) and choral and folk music (his, and I cribbed this fact from an article in Tin Angel). According to their Bandcamp page, alternative folk is absolutely a thing, so I don’t have to name this Experimental Whalecore. There is an EP promised for August and available for pre-order.
I don’t know what the name of this song will turn out to be — most of the set was new songs — but the more I listen to it, the more I’m into it, from the guitar riff to the hypnotic repeat of the lyrics.
The cat picture? Oh, the cat picture. Yeah, it attacked the drummer for Mauno. Apparently that is a thing it does. If it weren’t larger than any of my walls, I would have been tempted to buy it, just to protect future drummers.