Music Unplugged, Words Unhinged: ApartmentPARTY 9th Edition
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
A week of dismal rain engulfed the Tri-state, convincing Miller Pyke to re-locate the ninth installment of her “ApartmentPARTY” back into her homey Brooklyn apartment; her hope was to host the event outdoors. While it was held inside, skies were spotless on Sunday, save for a condensation trail or two. A different set of faces were present this evening, but enthusiasm for the night’s showcase were bright as before.
First up was Portland native K-Mich, an aspiring singer-songwriter. Her foray into music began at an early age, singing along to songs played on the radio during family car trips. Now her ambitions are set on releasing a premier EP by fall season 2019.
Warm vocals emanated from her throat, accented by swaying trills and descending pauses as she strummed a gentle succession of chords from her acoustic guitar. The song was entitled “Tangled”. Simple in arrangement, her music was mild and modest; ideal for a tranquil space like ApartmentPARTY. Her body swayed and her knees bobbed to the rhythm of her somber playing; her guitar’s tone was tinged by the subtle gristle from her bare fingers rubbing against the instrument’s resounding strings. She transitioned into a cover of “Crazy for You” by Adele. With efficient finger picking of each flavorful chord, K-mich delivered a stripped down and faithful rendition, showcasing her capability for clear intonation when reaching higher notes. The last song performed was written for her recently married sister; it was called “Top Shelf”. Accented by a controlled and nuanced vibrato, K-mich charmed the crowd into singing along with the song’s closing refrain: “I’m in Love”
Up next was Alice. Her second time performing for ApartmentPARTY, an anthology of writing was prepared for collective oration. She opened with an alliterative poem about learning new words and the versatility to their meaning; it was entitled “New Words Remade”. Using a deconstructive approach, Alice mused over the connotative subjectivity natural to hearing a new word for the first time; parsing through a word’s superficial phonetic personality and analyzing the texture of its sound when said aloud. Such playful inferences were then compared to their denotative meaning. Her second piece was untitled and revealed in its titular ambiguity. Dramatizing the course of emotions experienced when riding a plane, a dreary introspection of frightful feeling was broken down and segmented into numbered sections of analysis. Alice closed her reading with an excerpt of an essay concerned with the superficial experience of walking through a Wholefoods supermarket. Cynical in tone, the piece read like a sardonic day dream which guided you through the lens of a jaded Millennial unimpressed by their mediated shopping experience; pandered and pampered by tailored grocery isles packed with overpriced brands of health-centric super foods. Each piece received consistent laughs and chuckles from the crowd.
As Alex set up his amplifier and pedal board, which was repurposed from an old travel briefcase, he bantered with the crowd, divulging his preference for sincere music that’s balanced with a healthy dose of humor. Plugging in his hollow body Gibson, Alex set the somewhat silly mood for his set with a ballad of sorts, celebrating his love for Chicken Parmesan sandwiches: the song was called “Chicki-Parm”. His play-style was a bit abrasive. Choked jazz chords crackled through his amplifier, guided by percussive palm mutes and board slaps inconsiderate of timing. While the song’s intro seemed a bit aimless in its heavy-handed abuse of the guitar’s echoed resonance, hammy vocals came in to give the progression some structure. The second song was more of the same purposefully indulgent singer-songwriter flare, with levity being the goal for his material. This track was supported by the harsh droning resonance of the low E string, pushing the amplifier's cone to its limits. He rocked the neck of his guitar to achieve a slight tremolo effect. The third song was entitled “Everybody’s Quitting Smoking”, which was a straight forward track about 20-somethings making the insincere attempt at kicking bad habits; Alex’s delivery was characterized by projected restraint that came across as a little hokey for my tastes. His final song was the most overt with absurd humor, dealing with his unrequited love for a Food Network TV host: more excessive finger picking and over the top vocals. The crowd came away from his set smiling.
Next was Josephine Simple. Following generous applause upon stepping before the crowd, Josephine went straight into character. Seated on a stool with a contemplative grimace, they performed a comedic dialogue between a patient in seek of surgery and their creepy, deceased, physician. The frame of their performance revolves around a patient coming to terms with their newly distinguished gender identity. While the setup appears genuine at first, expectations are quickly subverted when it’s revealed that the patient really identifies with the pathetic turmoil of being dead. Heavy handed with irony, the absurdity of their skit was pushed further with the hilarious depiction of the doctor; a character portrayed by mechanical motions, a monotone voice, and cold shifting eyes. Lampooning the anticipated intensity to someone’s discovery and exploration of gender identity, Josephine’s subversive one-person comedy was one of the most precise and well executed comedies I’d seen performed in a DIY space. It’s typical of small readings to attract terrible stand-up or inappropriate blue-comic performances. Josephine delightfully blew away my expectations by actually being funny.
Becky took to the stool with an acoustic guitar. Having just returned from a long drive back down to Brooklyn, she wasted no time in busting out a heartfelt country-rock song entitled “Lose My Number”. Touting strong vocals and singing with purpose, she proceeded to perform a cover song and another original song; both simple in structure and more or less sticking to the standard passionate flare of an acoustic country-rock song.
The night ended with a set from duo Omicrom J Trauma. Hailing from Dallas, the two were on route to play some songs at a few East Coast radio stations. Friends with Miller Pyke, they managed to spare some time and swing by. The two sported acoustic guitars and rattled out some 60’s psych-rock inspired jams. Their riffs were tight, and vocals blended in epic harmony. Driven by dramatic chord progressions comparable to the compositional styles heard in classic rock, these two harken back to an era iconic of honest playing and wonderfully long hair.