Yesterday I went to the Whitehaus in Jamaica Plain for the first time. The Haus houses DIY shows each week, many from their collective, the Whitehaus Family Record. Events usually focus on area artists, but they manage to bag some out-of-towners as well (Dirty Projector Nat Baldwin, for example, will hit up the Whitehaus on Friday). Last night's show featured local favorites Hands & Knees, a solo set from QUILT singer Anna Fox, a pair of Brooklyn ladies going by Feather & Folly, and troubadour Pelvis McGillicuddy.
Pelvis, aside from a love song or two, used his set to break down partisan barriers through the power of music. Labeling himself an ultra-progressive Nader-voter, Pelvis hopes to harmonize with the tea baggers over frustrations with the Obama administration. His tune "God Will Appear," he admitted, is basically an attempt to trick conservatives into agreeing with him before they can realize he's a far left maniac--if you're trying to appeal to the right, he says, you've got to start with God. "Tea Party Victory Song"--for which, rather than playing live, he debuted a construction paper-style music video--is even less subtle. In the video, a cartoon Pelvis holds up cards listing his problems with the president as the overriding music sympathetically pokes fun at the Tea Party movement. Though I sincerely doubt any far-righters were in attendance, the set did inspire a brief debate about the electoral college between Pelvis and a patron. So that's something.
Feather & Folly, meanwhile, don't aim to spark any controversy with their sparse, cooing pop-folk. The slower songs are pretty vanilla, but they manage to show some personality when they rollick a bit. "How I Break," for example, has a pleasant urgency to it and "Country Hands"--which the girls informed Pelvis was the closest they'd ever get to a political song-- has been stuck in my head since the show, with its saccharinely peaceful refrain of "Hate has got to go." Despite frustrations with an out-of-tune guitar and the lead singer's constant roof-gazing, they held their own with strong harmonizing and generally endearing stage presence.
Anna Fox took the night in a different direction by introducing some electronic equipment. She played a short set of psych-folk that mostly centered on layering guitar lines with a loop pedal. Her rich build-ups have a bluesy feel that sets her apart from fellow one-person sampling bands like Atlas Sound. And she's not depressing, either, like Grouper, who Anna told me she's been meaning to listen to because a bunch of people have compared them. Overall, the set was pretty entrancing, but certainly disappointing when she ended so quickly.
Hands & Knees closed the night and absolutely destroyed, not just figuratively: Lead singer Joe O'Brien accidentally demolished the miniature tambourine that was strapped to his leg as he bounded about the room. The group fired power-pop banger after power-pop banger at us, and despite being a stripped down, drumerless set, the performance was not lacking in percussion thanks to heavy stomping from the crowd. The mood was boosted by the performers' obvious joy--O'Brien engaged bassist Carina Kelly in vigorous staring contests while playing which without fail left her cracking up. Friends and family (the two groups, conveniently, that compose 100% of my readership) are aware that nothing makes me swoon more than when band members genuinely laugh onstage during songs. Oh, how I love it. Even the many band conferences about which song to play next (which faithfully followed every single tune despite the fact that O'Brien had a piece of paper with a setlist on it) didn't diminish the energy and vibes.
In conclusion, I'm definitely going back at least a million times.
Chandelier picture from WhitehausFamilyRecord.com