When the galleries close up after First Friday and you’ve had your fill of early summertime patios, climb the stairs to the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar for some hot live music.
Heat rises, and it tends to feel like summer for 10 months out of the year in the Tea House. This is triply true when people pack in to see a band play. Wooden floors creak with anticipation and sweat drips from one and all.
When the band climbs onstage, the tone and pitch of the evening shift. The thickness of the air lingers, but the room fills with a calm ecstasy. The intimacy of the venue ensures that everyone in the room feels the music deep within their muscles and tendons, rather than ears alone. Time and again, this phenomenon takes place, but some performers are more decidedly suited to it. The touring musician Your Friend is one of them.
Your Friend is the performance name of Lawrence, Kansas resident, Taryn Blake Miller, who recently released her debut EP, Jekyll/Hyde. Recordings of Miller’s songs are dreamlike and minimal, with her guitar and vocals weaving through the drums, keyboards, and bass that provide a meatier momentum to the gentle sounds. Her voice warbles in a way, almost lilting, but is essentially honest, vulnerable, and haunting. The effect is beautiful.
Miller is a self-taught musician who listens and experiments widely in a variety of genres. She moved to Lawrence for its charm as a city and ended up studying linguistics at the University of Kansas. She also plays in a variety of other bands, works in a record store, and is part of the Whatever Forever cassette tape collective and SeedCo Studios, a DIY makerspace.
Your Friend signed to Domino Records in early 2014, and Miller has since experienced an explosion of appreciation for her musical creations. She played at this year’s SXSW festival, opened for Real Estate and other bands that she used to only watch from the audience, and was even listed as one of Spin Magazine’s “5 Best New Artists for April ’14.”
Miller’s live performances are typically more bare bones than the recorded tracks, and this show promises looped vocals and contemplative guitars washing over the June heat. As the ceiling fans whirl overhead, local band Weird Mob will provide a counterpoint with its cheerful pop music sensibilities.
Weird Mob is made up of Charlottesville transplants Dave Gibson on guitar and keyboards, Renée Reighart on bass, Adam Brock on drums, Bryan Hoffa on guitar, and Kris Hough on keyboards. Vocals are provided by everyone except honorary band member Lily, a shy hound dog. Gibson and Reighart are married and formed the band as an outgrowth of their Hibernator Gigs record label and production company. The couple further stretches their creative muscles by producing music videos for a variety of local bands, past and present, including Borrowed Beams of Light, Invisible Hand, and Left & Right.
According to Gibson, “Charlottesville has played a pretty big role in shaping the music of Weird Mob. We actually took kind of a musical hiatus while we were in grad school and living in cities that were either too big [Los Angeles] or too small [Bowling Green] to really feel like we could be part of any music scene. As soon as we moved here in 2007, we knew it was the right time to start something up again.”
Though they’ve played locally often enough that you might already know what they sound like, when asked to complete a Mad Libs challenge about the band, Gibson and Reighart came up with the following: Weird Mob is like a tornado that is flopping wildly around the basement. The band’s music is like a breeze or a thought—sometimes even one that’s bonkers—but certainly not morose. You can expect to hear egregious thuds and see lots of legkicks at the show.
I think you’ll agree that their answers are silly, but with unique phrasing. So too, the music. Weird Mob’s debut album, They’re A Weird Mob, was released in 2013. Its songs are full of synth riffs, smart but playful lyrics, and a well-developed vocabulary of musical stylings. When performing live, the band’s energy and dynamism are contagious. Gibson noted, “We’re preparing to record our first full length album, Wizards, which we hope to release in the fall. This record will be more influenced by the live incarnation of the band, in that it’s a little more jammy than our first EP.”
As the final chords fade to silence, the musicians will pack up their gear as the crowd disperses into the early-June night. Outside, the slight chill serves as a reminder that the dog days of summer are still weeks away and there will be plenty of other ways to revel in—or escape—the heat.
Your Friend performs with Weird Mob on June 6 at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar at 9pm. Admission is $5.
Where do you escape the heat of summer? Tell us in the comments section below.