Ups and downs: MACRoCk full of surprises

Harrisonburg's Court Square Theater
Friday, April 4

"I've got a Twizzler, that man's a tree!" one of my companions screamed, holding his candy delight high above his head like a fan with a lighter at an '80s hair metal concert. If we had been at almost any other concert at any other time (especially the '60s), his shrieks would most likely have been taken as something akin to acid flashbacks– but Friday night at the MACRoCk showcase, he spoke only the truth.

A little over an hour drive west on I-64 then north on I-81 had plopped us in the somewhat deserted town of Harrisonburg, where parking is never a problem, and nobody seems to be around to know your name. The object of our quest was MACRoCk's (Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference) Friday night band showcase, one of the three main evening-long shows happening across town.

Mirah was the first band worth a mention– a show for which everyone and their sister suddenly showed up. Mirah is a young Philadelphian (Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn), whose live act is usually, as it was Friday night, just her and a guitar. Mirah was amazing, with a voice that seemed to shake the air in the Theater, and songs that twisted time, bending it nicely to her will.

I did, I must admit, hear some resemblance in her voice to Lisa Loeb's, whose "Stay" seemingly annoyed more people than it delighted in '94– but it was as if Mirah were Lisa's little sister, the one who stayed home when Lisa got big, learned how to write really amazing songs and how to sing like the devil. She plays at the Tokyo Rose every couple of months, and I urge you to see her.

Brother Danielson was on next, and as you can see by the picture, things got a bit wacky. The band is made up of just one gentleman, who performed his entire set inside a large (fake) fruit tree, singing in a voice that switched between falsetto and god-awful high. Projected words enabled the crowd to sing along with ease, and though we all did, most of us still had a look of utter befuddlement on our faces.

The two bands I had really come to MACRoCk to see, Of Montreal and Mountain Goats, were both rather disappointing. I've seen Of Montreal at Tokyo Rose before, and enjoy their sweet take on '60s psychedelia on record, but the band was not up to par on Friday.

Maybe there was something wrong with the sound, but their vocals sounded, to be technical, just plain "not-good." Mountain Goats were better– they are a "smartrock" band, with songs ranging from history lessons on Anglo-Saxons to cow-love– but the limitations of their live show were apparent. Made up of just a vocalist/guitarist and a bassist, the duo could not perform some of the group's more complex recorded material, and instead focused on the acoustic-folk aspect of their sound, which is not my favorite.