Review by Shannen Adamites
Very rarely do you get to experience a barebones, one-person folk band stringing together a slew of classical pieces with whimsical theatrics, a no-frills, low-fi garage punk band with an edgy touch, and a hazy, atmospheric dream pop duo with shimmering vocals and guitars, all in the same night.
The Parlor Café featured Brooklyn’s upcoming shoegaze duo, Shana Falana, as well as North Adams’s Hill Haints, and 17 Gentlemen Callers, in an extremely eclectic night that sprawled across several distinct musical genres in the span of roughly two hours. Somehow, the vast differences managed to pull together a successful show and were united under the immense amounts of creativity and innovation each performance presented.
Armed with a ukulele, tambourine, and a suitcase, Jondavid Shetler, the mastermind behind 17 Gentlemen Callers, played an endearing set of traditional tunes and folky arrangements of classical and Renaissance pieces, and concluding with a cycle based on William Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” Any misplays and fumbled notes were easily forgiven considering the complexity of the pieces, including playing the percussion parts with their feet. There aren’t too many one-person bands out there right now, and watching Shetler sing and perform classics and folk so theatrically was a breath of fresh air, and definitely an artist to keep in mind for future reference.
Following 17 Gentlemen Callers, Hill Haints played a short set of highly energetic punk songs with vocal and guitar distortion that sounded like a low-fi album brought to life. Their throwback to the familiar sounds of The Saints and The Wipers, with subtle hints of Bauhaus and Joy Division, was powerful and incredibly dynamic, and got many people in the audience dancing about the space. With only four songs out at the moment, this band has serious potential in the Western Mass. punk scene – they do retro well without going overboard, and contain just enough grit and thrash to make things interesting, but not unlistenable.
However, it was Shana Falana who exerted the greatest deal of radiance and grace in their mesmerizing, hazy-summer-day set. Shana exuded mastery over artillery of loop pedals and amps, playing simple yet entrancing riffs on her heavily distorted guitar, while drummer Michael Amari rhythms were steady, consistent, and lively. Layers upon layers of sounds along with a series of projected, abstract images provided a completely immersive listening and viewing experience. The combination of sound and visual art worked very well with Shana Falana’s innovative musical style: a combination of melancholic, retro-pop from the 1980s mixed with some My Bloody Valentine and an ethereal montage of drawn out backing vocals resembling an echoic church choir. The glittering quality was captivating and grabbed the audience with a delicate, but sprightly hold for the entire duration of their set.