SPACE Gallery's annual Dead of Winter singer-songwriter showcase began quaintly and wonderfully in 2007: there was a fake fireplace, a small but rapt crowd, and original and cover songs from members of Portland's large and loving avant-folk community. Since then, the event has grown almost too large for its britches, replete with awkward periods of quiet musicians waiting for a chatty crowd to pipe down and the like. This year's big crowd was the most civil since the first year, and they were treated to the event's most consistent outing yet. (Josh Loring did a great job sequencing the night, avoiding the maudlin stretches that sometimes drag the event on too long.)
Consistent, but still sprawling. One moment, An Evening With's Jeremy Alexander (whose hand had gone numb, so he brought in a guitarist to sub) sang the Mazzy Star night-drive classic "Fade Into You"; the next, his sideman Peet Chamberlain played Electric Light Orchestra's "Can't Get It Out of My Head," seemingly embodying Adam Sandler's titular Wedding Singer with drawls of sarcastic spite. Before that, Over a Cardboard Sea's Tim Findlen turned a ukulele cover of a ragtime guitar instrumental into a vaudevillian mime act. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, née Aly Spaltro, took on two challenging covers (by Fleet Foxes and Moses Atwood) and imbued them with nervy gravitas.
The night's most astounding performances, though, were originals from unlikely candidates. Roots and blues performer Dana Gross has clearly learned something from his frequent gigs with Samuel James at Blue; his original, "Crooks," was leaden with angst but delivered with wry charisma. And Emily Dix Thomas, cellist of the School Spirit Mafia and member of Hersey State, elicited audible wows after each of her two rueful love songs. Fragile but firm, her songs teetered in and out of a tender, complicated love, and her pristine, placid voice conveyed every nuance of it.
: New England Music News
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