Seldom do you find a ticket to see one of your favorite artists. It’s even more seldom when you find that ticket and the rest of the bill is just as strong. On Tuesday, August 7th, this author was able to walk across the street to the Independent in San Francisco so as to catch Jessica Lea Mayfield and Langhorne Slim and the Law. Two acts who often fly under the radar to the casual music listener, but true artists to those who have a keen ear.
First, let one set the scene. The Independent lives up to its name. They tend to feature indie acts, or at least those artists who are about to have their breakout mainstream hit. The venue is a perfect launching pad for these artists in a city that prides itself on being on the edge of just about every scene you can imagine. You can typically tell a little venue like this is going to be good when the staff looks down upon you as if they know everyone in the business and you are a nuisance to them. Hipsters, or some degree of them, man every station at the Independent, in a good way. Inside, the main room is a very impressive ballroom type atmosphere with a dark ambiance and small stage. The room isn’t very large, maybe holding 500 people in sellout situations. Props are in order for their sound team as well. For a small venue, it was the perfect level of volume so as to not blow out your eardrums, but yet allow the audience to enjoy the artist.
Benyaro, a New York City based band led off the evening with a short set to get the crowd in the mood. A two-piece set with snazzy threads consisting of an upright bass and acoustic guitar, they were a nice opening act. The best way to describe these two are a simple yet effective bluesy undertone mixed with a hint of the friend from high school who played acoustic guitar at all your graduation parties. However, it seemed they may be best served to lay off the hard strumming a little bit. It came off a little juvenile and amateur. That being said, their vocals were above average and they did an impressive job of using them as a nice third instrument in their set. I made note of a couple of their originals that are being featured on their new EP that was just recorded. “Call Off Forever” made wonderful use of a harmonica. This one was a bit more folky that the rest of their set, which could explain why it was so enjoyable. “Good Day Better” was also a decent one that caught people’s attention. Benyaro also did an Etta James cover. When they announced their decision to pursue this, one was weary. After reading a few reviews of their previous performances, it seems to get favorable reviews from some other outlets, however, I was unimpressed with their rendition of “Don’t Lose Your Good Feeling.” Long story short, they are what you would expect from an opening act, they have some potential but need to figure themselves out first.
Following Benyaro was one of the most underrated acts in music. Jessica Lea Mayfield is a mystifying songstress from Kent, Ohio. Accompanied by her band, she walked briskly onto the stage and went right into “I’ll be the One You Want Someday.” Jessica has always had a way about her music that is just extremely haunting. This day was no different. Lyrically, her music tells tales of heartbreak and pain and her raw emotion while she performs reflects it so well. Her next song was “Kiss Me Again,” another song that almost sends mixed messages from its writer. The tune is a depressing one that wreaks of desperation and self loathing. This is where Jessica thrives; this is when she is in her element. Seeing her in person is such an experience because she seems to have what could be considered a hint of stage fright. Or it could be an introverted personality, which might make more sense. Either way, while on stage she is a woman of few words between songs. When she does speak, she sounds so delicate and timid. This just adds to the affection her fans have for her. When she does begin to belt out her songs, her eyes look as though they could stare a hole right through to your soul. It’s obvious that her music is full of emotion and personal experience.
She played a nice array of new and old on Tuesday with “Blue Skies Again,” “Sometimes at Night,” “Run Myself Into the Ground,” “Trouble,” and “Somewhere In Your Heart,” representing her latest album Tell Me. “For Today,” and “Bible Days,” represented With Blasphemy So Heartfelt. An endearing moment took place on stage during her final song “Somewhere in Your Heart.” Not too long ago, Jessica married her bass player Jessie, and during this song they exchanged a kiss, which was well received by the audience. With expectations for her performance, and she delivered.
For the final act, Langhorne Slim and the Law graced the stage for something and gave us something we were not expecting. When listening to Langhorne Slim songs I tend to fall in love with many of his folk tunes. However, seeing him live and in person, he was a bundle of energy and an absolute blast to watch. The crowd had taken their time making their way into the venue but was in full force by the time he and his band took the stage. His attire made him look like a genuine troubadour, bearing a striking resemblance to a youthful Neil Young with the personality and energy of a young Joe Cocker. This, my friends, is a lethal combination.
He and the Law started out with “Tonight Will Be Fine” and followed that with “Bad Luck.” Two songs in and the band was already starting to gain momentum. I truly appreciated “Song for Sid.” The commentary given prior to playing the song may have caught my attention a little more than the rest of the set list due to its nature. The song was for Langhorne Slim’s grandfather. It was a very calm and collected piece that was truly written from the heart. It was nice to hear “Salvation,” a song that Ourvinyl.tv covered not too long ago. Hearing it live in a concert setting was nice and all, but the intimacy of the Ourvinyl.tv set is difficult to replicate. As a fan of the folk genre, Slim’s ability to mix Alt-Country and Folk was on full display when playing “By the Time the Sun Goes Down.” This song had a very ominous sound to it, which reminded one of Jessica Lea Mayfield lyrically. However, the best song of the evening, and this goes for the entire evening, was when Langhorne Slim came out for his first encore. Armed with just his acoustic guitar, he belted “I Love You But Goodbye.” The song was an absolute treat full of raw emotion. It was similar to seeing Pearl Jam a few years back when Eddie Vedder sang “Just Breathe” by himself on stage. Langhorne’s song had more of an impact though. This song truly bears the artist’s soul for everyone to see. From there, the band came out and finished up the set with a nice medley that capped the evening. These guys were so much damn fun. One of the first notes written down during Langhorne Slim and the Law was “Speed Bluegrass.” That’s it, that’s all the note said. A fantastic banjo, mixed with a great front-man is going to make for a fun show. Slim’s hat never seemed to stay on his head for more than a couple songs at a time. He’d be throwing it, kicking it, or just plain losing it from rocking out too hard. All are encouraged to check out all three of these acts when they come to a town near you!
Langhorne Slim & The Law’s Salvation
By: Mitch Inkrott
OurVinyl | Contributor
Note: All Photos Courtesy of Tai Cordts on Behalf of Ourvinyl.com