This past Sunday afternoon I rode my bike over to Strange Brew to check out a show that was billed as the Sunday Bedlam with Daniel Thomas Phipps, Little Brave, and guest.
I didn't really know anything Phipps or Little Brave (also apparently known as Stephanie Briggs) before heading over to Strange Brew, but my own band had been out of commission for a few weeks (the holidays wreaking havoc on our practice schedule), so I needed a music fix. Also, I've noticed that the sound quality at Strange Brew, which tends to very good most of the time, anyway, is even better at early shows, when the audience seems to be a little smaller, quieter, and really focused on the music.
So... free show at Strange Brew. Decent biking weather. Unless the band turned out to be a troupe of amplified howler monkeys, I didn't see how this was likely to end up being a losing proposition.
And, in fact, the performance turned out to be really good. Excellent, I would even say. Little Brave and Daniel Thomas Phipps were the two Sunday regulars, and their guest was Seela Misra, who was also extremely good. Jon Greene, Misra's husband, played drums. My understanding is that Misra and Greene perform with the Purgatory Players at the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Strange Brew in addition to playing other gigs around town (Misra also mentioned the fact that she's played quite a bit with Matt the Electrician over the years). Ali Holder, who apparently plays pretty regularly with Phipps, also joined Little Brave and Phipps on stage for a song. The show had a sort of song swapping, singer-songwriter format, but Greene's subtle, nuanced, imaginative drumming lent a certain rhythmic undercurrent that added some spice to the folk style instrumentation .
The contrast between the three voices was interesting. I really liked all three of them, but they sounded very different. Phipps has a very rich, full, and slightly coarse sound. Little Brave has a powerful voice that is clear, distinct, and emotive. Seela Misra had a smokier, more soulful sound. They each had songs with interesting lyrics. They managed to evoke imagery and empathy without bogging down in cliche.
Little Brave played a ukulele the whole show. She used it primarily as a rhythm instrument, but occasionally played riffs and short solos. She got a surprisingly full sound out of it. Even played a distorted solo on the uke at one point. Phipps and Misra both did a solid job on guitar. Phipps did some interesting work with finger rolls and arpeggios in addition to more straightforward strumming.
But the highlights were the songwriting and the singing. The songs, although quite different in style and delivery, shared themes that involved personal struggles, interpersonal conflicts, and confusion about the state of the world. The lyrics came off as sincere and honest, and the performances were engaging.
It was a really pleasant way to spend an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon. I'd definitely be happy to see any combination of those three performers, solo or as a group, sometime soon.
Afterward, I got on my bike and rode home to tell Amy all about it. I must have sounded excited because she jumped on the internets to see who I was talking about, and in short order was telling me that she was sorry to have passed on my invitation to go to the show.