“Manic Monday at Cafe Nine is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’ll get.” This past Monday was a wildly eclectic bill of Daphne Lee Martin (eclectic singer-songwriter), OHMME (experimental rock), and Bombadil (retro folk-pop).
This show was suggested to me by ctverses, to see what I’d make of OHMME. “Experimental” music is challenging to me: I like melody, I like comprehensible structures, I like hearing a story in the music… and OHMME turns out to offer all that, packaged in a way that’s challenging but also enough sheer musical fun that some of the audience tried dancing to it. OHMME also provides a ton of my current obsession: instruments being played in ways I knew nothing about. With this latter, we’re not relying on my ignorance — I’m pretty sure only seven people on the planet knew guitars could make some of the expressive ambient noises OHMME achieves, and five of those seven had no idea how to use the technique with musicality.
Daphne Lee Martin
You know the mood where you want your neighbors to believe that you’re a gentle, refined soul, devoted to roots, classical, and soul — but you’re also filled with rage and ambivalence? Daphne Lee Martin has the songs for that. Her next album is called Starter Wife, a title that should be making adult women glance knowingly at one another and resolve to buy it and play it until the bits-and-bytes wear out.
Monday’s show was with frequent collaborator Kieran Ledwidge (on violin). I chose a cover as the video because while this classical-folk version of Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon” doesn’t cover all the territory Martin covers musically, it’s a terrifically fun job of expressing some of her musical interests and influences.
Chicago-based Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are on tour supporting their first album, Parts. Their experimental transformation of pop/rock… well, think about the Beatles in their later stretch-the-genre phases. Now turn that inside out and take it into the 24th century. There’s a strong melodic underpinning from their classical training and love of jazz, with some incredible harmonies, and then they bring sounds from their instruments that I had no idea it was even possible to make a guitar do (not just distortion and discord, but ambient-noise-type sounds).
The song below — announced as “it’s about being hangry” — was my pick for video because you can feel how the pacing and dynamics follow the experience. Bursts of rage — the moment of deep breath reasonableness — the breakdown of reason into confusion — it’s strange and new and yet deeply relatable. And check out how OHMME ends songs. I’ve never before heard a band get that complete dead-silent cut-off in a live performance. The sheer precision behind their apparent jamming is impressive.
Also, they embraced Connecticut culture by writing their setlist on a pizza box.
There are key moments in music that we read about in books or see in documentaries but never expect to experience: one such, for me, is sitting in a dark San Francisco club and hearing the dawn of folk-pop, with the Kingston Trio and the bands they inspired. Bombadil gives a delightful version of that Kingston Trio moment.
The trio of James Phillips, Daniel Michalak, and Stacy Harden puts on a show with close harmonies, engaging songs, and sunny music. “The Man Who Loves You” is the lead single for their upcoming album, Beautiful Country.