Jonathan Carroll, owner of Songbird Coffee and Tea House, organized the event and invited the performers. It’s to Carroll’s credit for seeing MonOrchid’s promise as a concert venue. The space normally used as a photography studio has a fantastic white backdrop that makes a great space for bands to perform. The Lunar Landscapes exhibit of photos from the Moon taken by NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera is still up in MonOrchid, and so images of the moon and NASA technology were projected onto the wall behind the musicians.
The evocative moonscapes were a natural fit for The Alchemy Heart. Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Israel Whittemore opened the show with a solo piece before being joined by three others. The band was short a few members, and there were substitutions because two members were attending funerals. Nevertheless, the band was as effortless as always in navigating their plaintive, lovelorn songs; especially impressive considering the introduction of new songs.
Things took a turn for the manic with Former Friends of Young Americans. The band played warm indie pop with an unrelentingly percussive edge. Every member held a pair of drumsticks at some point, and the drummer played guitar. Almost the entirety of their set was played as a continuous suite, as one song flowed into the next without missing a beat—literally. One of the few times the band stopped was to encourage the audience to come closer to the stage and to dance harder.
Last on the roster was Sketching in Stereo. The prog-influenced band takes late-90s/early-00s alt-rockers like Foo Fighters and Muse as a jumping-off point, and they served up unabashedly guitar- and synth-oriented rock. Guitarist Rob Howlett adept, electrifying solos and keyboardist Chris Romero’s atmospheric synthesizer combined for a veritable high-five of purely awesome sound. Their music best fit with the clips of slow-motion space shuttle launches, all burning rocket fuel and sheer power.
The crowd peaked at just over 50 attendees, but then disappointingly dwindled to about a dozen by the evening’s end—a regrettable consequence of a free show. One hopes the cost of renting the space doesn’t discourage the use of MonOrchid as a venue in the future, because it made for a great night.
Photos by Brandon Kutzler/DD