lauren ruth ward @ zone one (elsewhere)

lauren ruth ward @ zone one (elsewhere)

If you haven’t seen Lauren Ruth Ward yet – no matter what type of music you’re into – you’re 110% missing out. An incredible rock songstress with a slight twang, Lauren Ruth Ward’s music reaches far and wide in its influence. But her live performance is absolutely unheard of, which is why it was so easy for Christie McMenamin to dive in and get photos of this young talent during her recent show at Zone One in some breathtaking lowlight.

quiet slang @ rough trade

quiet slang @ rough trade

Frontman James Alex of Beach Slang brought his stripped-down project, Quiet Slang, to Brooklyn’s Rough Trade on July 9th.

It was a rainy Monday evening, and the show had been rescheduled from a prior date. Given those conditions, Alex was unsure, as he relayed to the audience between songs, how many people would show up. However, those concerns proved to be unfounded as the room was filled with fans hanging on every word.

Unlike Beach Slang shows, which are loud, clamorous, and brash, Quiet Slang is another entity entirely. As heard on Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, Quiet Slang’s debut LP, Alex has taken his work with Beach Slang and reimagined it, doing away with its thrashing, thunderous elements. Instead, Alex takes a sparse, orchestral approach: cello and piano, paired with his gritty vocals, give these formerly driving punk songs space to breathe, resurrecting them with new, balladic life.

This was reflected decoratively, as well. The stage set its own scene with flowers and strings of white lights with makeshift cotton clouds hanging in the distance. The rest of the venue was pitch-black save for a projector screen playing images of ballet dancers. Moving through the set, Alex was all heart from his honest vocals and earnest speeches of appreciation, thanking his fans over and over.

Quiet or loud, Alex delivered his audience an unforgettable night.

tomi @ mercury lounge

tomi @ mercury lounge

On July 11th, TOMI rocked The Mercury Lounge.

Filing in through the front door, the immediate rush of air conditioning was a relief on such a muggy summer evening. Fans made their way first to the bar, then into the stage area, filling the room. As TOMI walked through the crowd, cheers rippled through the audience, making their way from back to front. A magnetic performer, TOMI took possession of the room from the very first note, packing an almost unprecedented power into her wide-ranging vocals. Her music provides the perfect combination of rock and pop: some songs led the audience to dance, others to head-banging. The joy and abandon in the air was just as palpable as the outside heat, and radiated off the talkative TOMI, who spent time in-between songs sharing the stories behind them. Some of these were heartbreaking; she spoke of crying in a locker room at a yoga studio after a breakup, and a former friend suffering from addiction (she doesn’t think he ever heard the song she wrote about him, but she hopes he does at some point and recognizes it). Then, of course, there were some funnier ones, such as working a day job as a secretary in which she had to smile all the time. For her very last song, she delighted the crowd by debuting a new, sparkly guitar named Pam.

It’s clear that for TOMI, the Mercury Lounge and her latest EP, What Kind of Love, is only the beginning.

ciaran lavery @ rockwood music hall

ciaran lavery @ rockwood music hall

Ciaran Lavery, an Irish singer/songwriter, performed an intimate solo set at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall on June 22nd.

Playing to a small, darkened room, a reverent silence took hold of the audience the moment Lavery began his first song. Switching back and forth between acoustic guitar and piano, his sparse accompaniments allowed his gentle, hushed voice to soar. With introspective, narrative lyrics, Lavery is a poetic storyteller. His ballads pull at your heartstrings, his words run the gamut of emotional experience. As a performer, he makes meaningful eye contact with each member of his audience, drawing his listeners further into his world.

In-between songs, Lavery continued his stories, revealing his sense of humor. Speaking of nervousness on an airplane, he once tried to relax by watching, as a dog lover, Marley and Me. He wasn’t, however, aware of the ending. Lavery also had a revelation while listening to the radio on a long drive, attempting to figure out the meaning of the genre “soft rock.” With a creeping sense of dread, he put it together: he is soft rock. Lavery easily pulled laughs from his listeners’ throats as he framed simple, universal experiences as ones of casual mirth.

More info about Lavery can be found here.