Acoustic music performances take place at churches during the holidays all the time. Choral groups perform Handel’s Messiah, sure, but Friday night’s scene in the basement of the Lutheran Church of the Messiah, located next to idyllic McGorlick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was out of the ordinary.
Mountain Man, the female folk trio from Bennington, Vermont, headlined an entire bill of acoustic, un-amplified performances. Alex Bleeker, who normally plays with either Real Estate or The Freaks, his Neil Young-meets-the-suburbs side project, sat on the edge of the stage, playing light, pretty songs. So did Liam the Younger, Lux Perpetua and No Demons Here.
In New York, a church is rarely the venue for a Friday night hipster show. Instead of being sticky with spilt beer, the floors at the church were covered with tapestries and blankets. Dozens of candles and a string of white Christmas lights framed the stage, offset by a line of green lights along the walls.
Naturally, “the church show” also fell on the first night of Hanukkah.
The three women of Mountain Man, Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, sing haunting and arresting songs in three-part harmony. Most are performed a cappella, though a few feature some simple picking on an acoustic guitar.
Mountain Man is part of a collective of artists, which also includes most namely, Real Estate, releasing albums on New Jersey indie label Underwater Peoples. In fact, most artists on the bill Friday night have released or will release records with the label. But Mountain Man stands out in a group that heralds hazy sounds and lo-fi recordings. The band’s sound is rooted in the folk tradition, and their songs are clean and stripped down to their most basic elements.
One of the most stark and moving moments of the evening came during a cover of Tom Waits’ “Green Grass.” Mountain Man Amelia gave an emotional preface to the song, explaining in a few words that a love affair had recently ended and the song was one she had enjoyed with her former partner many times.
She sang it as though the audience was made up of her closest friends in the world, and the setting was her bedroom.
I hope to see video or hear audio of this soon. In the meantime, check out the Chocolate Bobka captured audio of Alex Bleeker and Molly from Mountain Man covering Girls.
Alex Bleeker and Mountain Man: Oh, Boy