On these hot summer nights, in a city that neurotically overcompensates for heat, one would expect the temperature to be lower inside the Bowery Ballroom than out. As Marissa Nadler took the stage, it seemed as though it did the opposite. As she sidled up to her microphone, you could hear a pin drop in the crowd as they waited for her to address them, as she coquettishly fidgeted with her hair. Shy, clumsy, and ethereal, she sashayed in her black and gold gown and imbued her music with a level of sincerity you don’t normally hear. As I stood in this dimly lit room, which she eventually asked to be made even more dim, listening to her honey sweet voice, I was reminded of my days listening to Hope Sandoval and Jennifer Charles. That sultry voice with a hint of blue that has so many emotions riding on it.
Touring in support of her latest album, ‘Stranger,’ Nadler is joined onstage by Don McGreevy (Earth) and Milky Burgess as well as Kira Clark and Keith McGraw of Muscle & Marrow. The chemistry between everyone was an endearing thing to witness, from Burgess and McGreevy gently teasing her when she spilled her bottle of water, to Nadler self-deprecatingly explaining her tuning changes to the crowd. The tone of the room was light hearted, it made everyone feel welcome as they became lost in her dreamy music.
Nadler is joined on this tour by Wrekmeister Harmonies and Muscle and Marrow. Muscle and Marrow started the night off, with Kira Clark on guitar and vocals and Keith McGraw on drums. This band reminds me of the stories you read about sirens beckoning forth sailors. Their music seeps out into the crowd, luring everyone forward on it’s current one minute, but as we draw nearer it abruptly changes. Suddenly Clark gnashes her teeth and the music smashes us into the razor sharp rocks on the coast. It’s a beautiful ebb and flow, keeping the crowd on their toes, and it made me wish their set was a little longer.
Wrekmeister Harmonies performed next with just J.R. Robinson and Esther Shaw performing together this go around. My favorite thing about seeing Wrekmeister live is that you never know what you will hear or who may join them. The set began with Shaw chiming small bells before introducing the piano and violin, with Robinson, as dynamic and volatile-sounding as ever, joining on guitar.
This set was fairly tranquil compared to the previous time I saw Wrekmeister Harmonies (at Saint Vitus with Bell Witch), but still haunting, threaded through with moments of uninhibited emotion. Shaw’s voice carried softly, rising above the music then slowly diving back down below it. As the intensity increased, Robinson and Shaw started lunging at each other like feral animals with each note, almost lost in their own cacophony, with Robinson doubling over at the end of one song to scream an anguished “fuck you!”
When I first saw the lineup for this show, I was genuinely curious – how could all of these sounds work? Each band is so incredibly different I wasn’t sure how they could find common ground. The final feeling, however, was that this may have been the most complimentary and well-versed lineup I’ve heard. I was really blown away as I walked out of the Bowery. It is rare that you can see this sort of show but I know anyone that catches this tour will agree.
Muscle and Marrow