all words: Andy Hess
all photos: Shauna Alexander
I haven’t been in the District long, but I’ve noticed people here tend to support their own. Even if one of their own now lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Such was the case Wednesday night at The Black Cat with a room filled to see the return of Laura Burhenn and her new project The Mynabirds.
A lot of people loved Burhenn’s former project Georgie James, but she’s really hit her creative stride with The Mynabirds. It shows on their exceptional record What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood and in a live setting.
Let’s get this out of the way: The Mynabirds are an exceptional live act. Even with the horns missing from the arrangements, the terrific vocal harmonies from Burhenn’s back-up singers and a tight rhythm section made up for it. Playing for roughly an hour, the sextet worked their way through the debut bookending their set with terrific covers of Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Lemon Tree” and The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun”. From the choral hymns of “What We Gained in the Fire” to the stomp of “Wash It Out” to the swing of “We Made A Mountain”, every song was precise and executed with flawless perfection. Also, the sound was pristine Wednesday night, adding to what lined up to be a nearly perfect show.
On the record Burhenn sounds like her contemporaries Chan Marshall or Jenny Lewis, but she definitely has her own voice that’s more nuanced and subtle in person. The Mynabirds have managed to re-invent the wheel by working to their strengths — writing tight, creative, understated soul music. At the rate The Mynabirds are going, this might end up being one of those shows that we remember the cramped, sweaty spaces when they’re playing larger rooms.
Opening up for Mynabirds was Black Telephone playing only their second show ever. Fitting neatly into the home heroes theme of the evening, the band features Thomas Collier (of Bellman Barker), Holly Tegeler (of My Favorite Dress DJ night and previous Umbrellas in London project with Casper Bangs’ Rob Pierangeli) and Rory Carroll (of The New York Times and The Surge).
They play loose, jangly, 90s inflected pop-rock wich focuses on bass/guitar playfulness and Tegeler’s high but oddly compelling voice which beguilingly demands your attention. Expect to see them play a dozen more shows in no time, because they and their 7 songs and 2 covers are ready.