SHANNON WRIGHT, WAXWINGS
There’s nothing like playing quiet acoustic music in noisy rock clubs to make you want to yell. On her gorgeous 1999 debut, Flight Safety, Shannon Wright presented her sometimes pretty, sometimes oblique melodies with a hushed, folky simplicity. She kept her fragile voice well within its limitations, tracing the contours of each song with delicate care. But Wright’s an indie-rock veteran (she sang and played guitar in the band Crowsdell) on an indie-rock label (the Touch and Go subsidiary Quarterstick), so she went out and played indie-rock venues, where patrons are as bent on socializing as they are on listening, and the subtleties got lost. In what seemed to be an effort to be heard over the yammering, she began singing more forcefully, pushing up both the intensity and the volume. I thought it worked when I saw her at Metro last year, even when the occasional vocal crescendo was loud enough to knock down a wall. She clearly brought this intensity into the studio when she recorded the new Maps of Tacit. She plays most of the instruments–guitar, piano, bass, drums, organ, and Wurlitzer keyboard–embellishing her hypnotic guitar arpeggios with loose grooves and washes of color, and her singing is more aggressive than on Flight Safety. Unfortunately the new songs lack the melodic clarity of her older ones. Pushing her limits vocally, Wright too often sounds flat or resorts to abrasive caterwauling; when she wails away on “Heavy Crown” it’s hard not to wince a little. But when her writing is strong, as on “Fences of Pales,” the songs can withstand the attack. She’ll play most of this gig solo, with drummer Brian Teasley (aka Birdstuff from Man or Astro-Man?) joining for a handful of songs. The opening act, Detroit’s Waxwings, seem to have come from nowhere with their recent debut, Low to the Ground (Bobsled)–label owner Bob Salerno discovered the bandleader, Dean Fertita, working behind the counter of a record store a couple years ago. But their ultrahooky psychedelic pop revamps a long line of familiar influences, from the Byrdsian ring of the Rickenbacker to lovely vocal harmonies that fall somewhere between the Beach Boys and the Zombies. Thursday, June 8, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Frank Mullen/Jeff Tisman.