The Wooly is a hybridized venue. The lighting and the open layout suggest a gallery space, the monumental projection screen an art house theatre, and the broad back bar a sports arena. The little seating there is appears to have been stolen from a bowling alley. The crowd is a tad unruly, perhaps more interested in socializing than seeing a show. Still, a few diehards press to the front, eyes turned upward beatifically.
Post-punker duo Cold Waste opened, a barrage of funereal bass and guitar over clinically perfect drum machine beats. Guitarist James Hernandez sounds startlingly like Ian MacKaye at his most plaintive, albeit if the latter gave up shouting and drank honeyed herbal tea. The guitar alternates between austere and trampling, the riffs ranging wide without devolving into noodling. Kristen Waterman’s bass is consistently taut, creating the haunting sensation that The Wooly is much darker and emptier than it actually is. Cold Waste is less dissonant than Jesus Lizard, colder than Mission of Burma, and gloomier than both. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
I may have succumbed to the communal spirit afterward, and did my own share of drinking and chatting. Consequently, I was only dimly aware of Todd Chandler’s short films and music. Not that even the most attentive listener could have heard much over the dull roar of the assembled scenesters. I do recall lots of greying seagull images and melancholy atmospherics. Apologies, Todd.
Next up was Gainesville fixture Holopaw, administering their distinctive brand of not-quite-folk alt country. Frontman John Orth’s idiosyncratic warble remains as potent as ever, capable of commanding the room with a whisper. Despite having to compete a bit with the crowd, drummer Ryan Quinney’s decisive percussion cut through the background noise enough to provide room for his brother Patrick’s guitar and Jeff McMullen’s bass and keys. Though the mournful hum was at odds with the pepped up attendees, Holopaw impressed with an earnest, brumal force.
By the time Mirah took the stage, I was keen to be arrested by her twee charms. Though I found “Changing Light” less intimate and compelling than her earlier work, I found her live show a delight. Mirah’s diaphanous voice is always unhurried, and her songs maintain the same deliberate push that first caught my attention on 2000’s “You Think It’s Like This, But It’s Really Like This.” Though moments of the show approached soporific with their softness, Mirah’s playful banter and enthusiasm were always on hand to bring revive me. Perpetually sporting a smile as radiant as her guitar (what is that, cherrywood?), her mellifluous voiced enveloped the Wooly in a warm embrace apropos of the venue’s name.
Good shows stick with you. As I ventured from The Wolly into the chilly Gainesville night, I remained enchanted enough to stumble back to my friend’s couch, even though I might have preferred a Murphy bed.
Mirah, Holopaw, and Todd Chandler are touring throughout the southeastern United States know. Go see them.