The coffeehouse circuit thrives on the nerve bundles of the ultra sensitive. Folks who stop just short of intravenous caffeine drips hang on every fluffed word from the solitary singer balanced atop the gratuitous stool.
How would this scene mutate if, perhaps, it moved to a spot where beer ran rampant and idle conversation grazed freely at the bar?
This darker side of the songwriter world descended upon BoBo Gallery on April Fool’s, courtesy of the trio sirens of Miriam Allen, Jenna Lindbo and Eliza Rosbach.
BoBo reverted to a shadowy place where tales of whiskey, world travels, and sprinkles of grifting littered the emoting.
For those faint of cheek, a mighty flush appeared whenever multi-instrumentalist Allen took her turn. Of the three, Allen stood out as the marquee performer. Raised in South Carolina, she spent two years traveling all over Latin America—including busking in Plaza Francia in Argentina. Already versed in Appalachian sass, Allen brought back a sultry Spanish feel to her music that turned knees to jelly.
Her gypsy style band, The Pasionistas, was absent from the night’s proceedings, but Allen remained luminescent. Her set lists flirted with South America (including the vagabond feel of “Contrabandista”) as well as being the card shark protagonist of “One Eyed Jack:” “I swear I wasn’t drinking, I just wasn’t really thinking when I hit the mailbox … again.”
Allen owns a voice that entices the listener to steal it away for selfish keeping. Be warned: To own a piece of her music (check out the excellent 2004 release, Mountains of Mendoza) means shards of the heart will forever belong to her. (Allen’s most recent disc is last year’s La Capitana.)
Not all the spotlight clung to Allen (who provided violin backup for the other two). Each singer got a song’s chance to wow the crowd. Rosbach owned a quirky spirit reminiscent of performance artist Miranda July, and vocal similarities to Beth Orton. Awkward in all the right ways (even her mic problems lent to her shtick), Rosbach understands lyricism by gutting the dark corners, especially on her standout song, “Fingers in the Ground.”
Not to be outdone by Allen’s gypsy caravan, Rosbach paid homage to Popcorn Sutton’s lineage—“You’re my moonshine/My only moonshine/You’re frisky/You taste like whiskey/Which you’re too good to buy at the bar.”
In the middle perched Lindbo, who offset the debauchery with sunny optimism. Her captivating campfire voice couldn’t offset overt lyrics like “What does it look like through the eyes of a soldier?” Fortunately, Lindbo’s confidence and easy banter with the crowd allowed the mind to ignore the obvious.
The fourth member—the crowd—gets props for being equal parts considerate and festive. “You’re such a nice audience,” Rosbach gushed before quipping, “You’re clappers.”
Although Allen garnered the most applause, Lindbo and Rosbach received a generous staple of claps that should buoy them for future shows. A couple waltzing towards the end of the night further ensured that the confines of the coffee shop atmosphere had no place in the presence of three divas and a bartender waiting patiently in the background.
Learn more about Miriam Allen at www.miriamallen.com.