The showcase began with Warpaint, a nice surprise. In fact, this is a band that we should try to get to play a KSCR Presents show (hint hint).
We caught some of the Darlings and some of The Black Hollies in the basement of the venue, a tiny space (max is probably 95 people, maybe) that allows for intimacy and annoyingly crowded pathways.
After the Terrorbird party I headed up a few blocks to the Mercury Lounge to catch The XX. After the debacle with Atlas Sound I made sure to arrive early. Even at two and a half hours before show time the line was a block long. By the time we entered the line curled for blocks around the neighborhood.
Lia Ices began the set and I immediately loved them. They are another band that I didn’t get to approach but we should definitely bring them to KSCR (HINT HINT). CMJ describes her as “experimental folk that resonates from her chilling vocals and arrangements.”
Next was Javelin, a strange mix with Lia Ices and The XX. Javelin, “island influence and a Casio keyboard dominate hand clappy hip hop,” was interesting, employing cool vocal decoder effects straight through the mic.
Finally, The XX came on and dominated the room. The twenty year olds quietly and confidently lulled us into the airy space that the band created. They opened with “Crystallized,” quickly asserting their influence and moved on to more songs to complete their hour set.
After The XX I planned to see Jenn Grant at Googie’s Lounge, the upstairs venue at The Living Room, located only a few blocks from the Mercury Lounge. I had two and half hours to kill before, though, so I set up shop in a vegetarian organic food store café and drank a soy chai tea while serendipitously running into two Israelis who entertained me for quite some time.
Downstairs in The Living Room was some loud thrasher band, but upstairs in Googie’s Lounge, located behind large velvet curtains, was a small area equipped with rugs, couches, drinks, and singer songwriters. I climbed the steps, pushed back the curtains, and entered a whole new world.
When I arrived Ruth Minnikin, Halifax native like Jenn Grant, was still doing her set. I set up shop right in front of her at a table by myself. Ruth’s set was fine, but it was like all Halifax native female singer songwriters I’ve heard; cute Meghan Smith. It’s cute, it’s happy; it’s sunflowers and fields of high school sweethearts. It made me nervous, wondering if Jenn Grant was going to be too much of a [artist who takes pictures of babies in cute outfits] picture.
But Jenn Grant wasn’t any of that. She was perfect. She was able to fill every frequency, every piece of open space, yet leave ions of emptiness at the same time. Everything melted away as she played and she became the center of my world. The trasher bass hits from down stairs seemed to disappear for just a few minutes as she dominated any free amoeba of an emotion that was available in New York.
Her live presence set me back a bit, though. Her music is so intimate and I had imagined her as a darker more brooding songwriter; dark hair, emaciated, and quiet. I wanted her to be the mysterious women that I imagined each week as I spun “Echoes” on Kosher for Kollege. Instead a blonde haired, wholesome Novia Scotian in a blue sundress sang and tried to be cute and funny, which she is, but it took away from the deep [insert something] of her music. She made up silly anecdotes and followed each song with a couple meek “thank yous,” sometimes saying “thank you” before the last note had finished ringing, before I was ready to let go of the song.
But there was as certain mystery to her, I guess. She knows something we don’t, because when she sings the world is lost, no matter what banter she had followed the song with, once she sang the world narrowed and all we saw and all we knew and all we breathed and all we dreamed was Jenn Grant. She was sharing with us something that is from a place even deeper than her heart. She’s sharing emotions that we don’t even know how to access. With a violin, a guitar, and her voice, Jenn Grant creates an army.
For her last song, she came out into the center of the room (if you can call it a room, it was maybe 12 feet wide and 30 feet long, which included a stage, a sound booth, a bathroom, and kitchen) and played a miniature guitar and sang for us, completely acoustic. But the music downstairs was too loud and drowned her out. So she sat in a chair and had us cram around her, inches from her guitar. And then it happened again. The world around us melted away and all we could see what Jenn Grant, pouring to us everything we wanted yet nothing we could handle. The thrasher band downstairs went silent in our minds. I looked around at everyone’s faces. Some people seemed on the brink of tears, and the men who had seemed so disinterested were spell bound. When they caught my glance they pulled out of their trance, acting as if they hadn’t been as affected as they were. I myself nearly broke down a few times.
Maybe I was just in “one of those moods.” It could have been that I was in as melancholy a state as her music since I was traveling around NY alone at this point, surrounded by couples who couldn’t keep their hands off each other while forcibly dwelling on my past relationship. Whatever it was, Jenn Grant amazed me and left me yearning for more.