Photo credit: Madame X on Facebook
Whatever the weather, December in New York City is truly a wonderland. You can hear Mariah Carey playing from nearly every storefront; see the Christmas lights emanating from every street; hear the sounds of the season on every subway platform; and overall, just feel the magic wherever you go. Live music is plentiful and joyous during this time, and this past week’s SoFar Sounds show, held at Madame X on Houston St., provided another opportunity for musicians, fans, friends, and family to join together to celebrate music as the year came to a close.
The room, on the second floor above the main bar, was warm and cozy, full of fluffy couches and chairs and a small bar in the back of the room. The dim red lighting provided a Christmas-like atmosphere as attendees sipped on adult beverages and maneuvered around the tight space. The stage, elevated from the floor, allowed the performer to get a full scope of the room throughout their set, perfect for catching even the sneakiest of phone-users whose attention may be elsewhere.
The first of the night’s three performers was Mae Krell, was New York-based singer/songwriter. Krell’s releases this year, including EP Imposter Syndrome and a short B-sides collection, are light and jazzy, highlighted by her personal, riveting style of songwriting and simple melodies, that, while often used to help paint the pictures depicted in her somber lyrics, are accessible and singable. Krell quipped that her music is, in fact, very sad, and that if we were looking to have a fun Wednesday night, she isn’t the artist to do it with. However, the audience, which remained a bit stiff, yet respectful, throughout the night, maintained a stoic sense of reverence during the set, willfully allowing Krell to take them on her journey.
She opened with the standalone single, “Garden.” The studio version, with its full production, is reminiscent of Patty Griffin’s “Up To The Mountain (MLK Song).” Its acoustic counterpart, in what would become a theme of the night, stripped away any excess sound, allowing all the splinters and cracks in Krell’s voice to come through each time. Her vibrato was consistent, yet not overpowering, and was yet another tool used to allow her emotions to flow. The stripped back nature of the songs allowed the detailed lyrics of songs like “Wash,” to be heard clearly: “I can’t turn off the faucet, no matter how hard I try. There’s water all around me, it’s chasing itself from my eyes.”
Krell took the time in between songs to explain her backstory, like with “Rest Stop,” the highlight of the set, in which she sings about overwhelming sadness she felt while on a break during a road trip. However, she never overshared, providing just enough information to allow the listener to understand what they needed to, and nothing more. In fact, her pre-song chats helped lighten the mood, and amplified the living room-type vibe that SoFar goes for.
SoFar continues to be a proving ground for artists of all different styles and walks of life. Mae Krell is an artist who thrives in the quieter, intimate space that SoFar provides, needing nothing more than a guitar and a pure voice to make an impact.