Picture a perfect southeast Portland day: sun shining, happyhipsters riding cheerily on their bikes, leaves rustlingoverhead.
The music of indie pop goddess Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn issimilarly nostalgic, peaceful and just plain nice. Having firststumbled across this cherubic artist during an acoustic set in thecafeteria of PSU’s Smith Memorial Student Union, I soon fell inlove with her first K-records album, You Think It’s Like This ButReally It’s Like This. You can imagine my delight when I foundmyself, along with several dozen Reedies, eagerly awaiting Mirah’ssugary sweet voice last Saturday night.
A benefit for Portland Bike Works, the concert graced the loftyReed College Student Union, complete with vaulted ceilings, twinklelights and an abundance of cushy couches to snuggle into. Low keyPortlanders with a soft spot for two wheeled transportation werecomfortably perched on couch and floor when the show finallycommenced over an hour past schedule.
The show kicked off with a set by a really, really awfulband.
Please don’t think I’m cruel, but a quartet of slightly geeky,earth and bike lovin’ dudes with instruments do not a band make.Picture high-school talent-show ability and bike-related covers ofsongs such as “King of the Road,” and you’ll begin to get thepicture.
I give them props for effort, but am unable to reveal their bandname because I don’t know it … I didn’t hear a word they said – Iwas too busy staring at the above-the-knee, pleated khaki shortsthe bandmates wore. Hideous.
The evening took a turn for the much better when Portland’s TheCulottes got onstage, bringing with them their mellow, whimsicalsound. Complete with soft female vocals and dark, simple,Portland-flavored catchy-pop, the group set the tone for theevening’s delights.
Up next was artist Tara Jane O’Neil, whose solo performanceconsisted of looping bits of eerie sound accompanied by vocals andacoustic-electric guitar. The highlight of her performance camewhen she performed a duet with Mirah; the contrast between Mirah’slilting, melodic vocals and the sultry, mellow vocals of Tara addedfabulous complexity to the performance.
I have to admit that I did have one problem with her set: therepeating, fuzzy melodies and low, soothing vocals quickly drew meinto a sleep stupor. Word to the wise: before you go see Tara’snext show, take a nap before you leave the house.
And then, finally, finally, Mirah took the stage.
As she prepared to play I was struck by her new look; havingalways appeared in person and in pictures as a sunny-faced blonde,Mirah’s new darker do (her curly mop had darkened into a deep, richchestnut) changed her appearance entirely. Interestingly enough,her hair wasn’t the only thing that had gotten darker since thelast time I had seen her perform.
As she began to play the first song in her set, I couldn’tbelieve my ears. Unfortunately for listeners who prefer their popto focus on the lighter side of life, Mirah’s new music just isn’tas sunny as it used to be.
But damn, that girl can still light up a room.
Saturday night introduced me to the new Mirah, just asnostalgic, just as sweet, but this time it appeared that the sweetfaced little bundle of sunshine had met the dark side of her ownmoon … and her music is all the better for it.
Infused with brooding melodies and more varied vocal styles,Mirah’s performance lacked none of her past charisma. Her new soundspeaks to the maturation and evolution of her music, and I wasstruck by the diversity of Saturday’s performance. Reflectingelements of Elliot Smith’s melancholy, Tori Amos’ vocal power andBubbles the Powerpuff girl’s charm, Mirah glowed while she croonedher hipster-filled audience.
As she stood on stage pouring her bittersweet vocals into themicrophone, it became clear that Mirah hadn’t lost her love ofsunshine and daisy chains, she just acquired a taste forthunderstorms and rain showers, as well.