Amidst the bustle of a busy week of Mission Creek, Friday night’s musical possibilities included a night of pleasant music that seemed to emphasize ephemerality.
Dickie opened the night at The Mill. A three-piece band, Dickie features a drummer who holds the space of conversation between a violin/female back up vocalist and the rich baritone voice of the lead vocals. The combination of tones, plus the emphasis on the vocals, were situated in the fleeting space of melancholy reflection that we often rush past in our own lives. Pausing there, the band’s music opens up and expresses the rich space of quiet and allows the audience to attend to it, exposing its power. Something healing emerged through their attention to the mournful moments that invite us into them, a testament to the need, perhaps, for us to welcome such moments as they arise.
DIIV’s ephemerality was expressed in a different way. I’d been a fan of the album when it was released this summer and was excited to see them at the Englert. The young five-piece band from New York seemed anchored in the illusions of immortality that sometimes cloak teenagers who find guitars. The songs, filled with glorious, joyful hooks, soared with a shimmering gladness as a video of random footage (likely shot by the band) played on a white screen behind them.
The video, the music and the band seemed golden and glorious, but absolutely light: Nothing in the songs stuck with me beyond the moments they were played. It was delightful but absolutely lacking in depth, even as the later songs cohered together with a bit more grit. Their songs were the songs of sunlight peeking through clouds, the fleeting moments when you take a deep breath and experience the brief span of youth when everything seems possible for an eternal moment until the next breath reminds you of the tasks at hand.
Pieta Brown headlined The Mill: Her voice is delicate without being fragile, and like a snowflake seems to melt on the air as each word and phrase was breathed out, expressed. The backing band, featuring Bo Ramsey on the guitar, was soft and almost faded in order to allow the power of her breath to be heard. It was a treat to watch Ramsey’s aged hands lightly caressing his guitar, earning each quiet note. Brown’s intonation and rhymes (but not her pitch) border on the Dylanesque, with held vowel sounds and consonants that crumbled, at times, without full enunciation. The effect was that of a photograph fading in the sun — slowly, just as our memories do in time.
Pieta Brown closes out the fourth night of the Mission Creek Festival at The Mill. Friday, April 7, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.
The show doubled as a release for her new album, Postcards, and the songs were glimpses into the errata of the overlooked within our daily experience. She spoke the stories of the songs to introduce them, and although the crowd carried too much of the revelry of Friday night into what would have been better preserved as a quiet space, the suggestions of her songwriting process provided an interesting lesson on the nature of creativity.
Her willingness to continue speaking these soft stories into a space that seemed somewhat hostile to what was gentle attested to the strength of her softness. Not everything ephemeral is lost. Not everything delicate is fragile. Even with the unfortunate background noise, her set provided a space to honor what is pleasant in the passing of our days. Watching her play after DIIV was a welcome glimpse into how maturity can nonetheless remember the lessons of the eternal that we’re born into, but all too often forget in our tendencies to become distracted.
In a time filled with bombs and missiles and sounds of war, it was refreshing to be reminded that life can be pleasant. Not every moment needs to be planted deep within us; instead, part of what music offers is a suggestion to simply be refreshed as things occur, enriched by that which we lose—even as it is introduced for a second time.