Mo Kenney, Ready for a Big Stage Next Time in NYC

I’d seen Mo Kenney perform live, but never in such an up-close setting as when she played Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 3 on the lower east side of Manhattan this past Sunday night. I’d heard her sit in during an outdoor set at the CBC Music Festival last May, with Joel Plaskett and the Emergency band, and then in a solo show at the same festival where organizers put her in a too-small tent that overflowed with a couple hundred enthusiastic fans. Suffice to say that in Canada, where she’s become pretty well known, Mo Kenney warrants a big stage. In NYC, where she’s not well known yet, the small downstairs room at Rockwood was just right, though I’d add she’ll need a bigger one here next time.

She opened her set with her song “I Faked It,” full of scorn and romantic disappointment:
It was never you and me
When I said it was forever
I was lying through my teeth

For example
when I said it wouldn’t hurt
there was not a chance in hell
it was ever gonna work

To be truthful
the pleasure didn’t last
Before I took a drink
the ice had melted in the glass

While I’d seen Kenney really wail on a hollow-bodied Gretsch electric guitar at the outdoor shows—and play on an acoustic guitar—she had only a small acoustic guitar this night, I think a Martin, and got great sound from it. What’s more, she plays really interesting stuff. In fact, her chording embroidered the harsh lyrics of this first song with a harp-like beauty, a felt contrast to the embittered narrator’s regrets. When it ended, she remarked to the audience, “I thought I’d start with that one, so right off the bat you could see the sort of person I am.” It was a rueful, humorous note. She kept up that sort of banter throughout, showing an easy stage presence, even she was just tuning. Her second song was one she said she’d written at age 16,”Eden,” also the first song on her excellent 2012 debut album, a wistful song with a finger-picked passage that reminded me of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” In her next break, she mentioned that she’d driven a car in NYC for the first time ever, a bit different from Halifax, and how glad she was it had been quiet, a Sunday. Not only are her lyrics full of arresting emotional images, when she toys with wordless vocalizations, doing a kind of folk-music scat, or assays to whistle a chorus, it comes off perfectly. She confessed to writing a lot of “sad songs,” but added she’s written at least one happy number, “The Happy Song,” which she played with a lilting eagerness, including a cleanly whistled passage.

She also mentioned Canadian rock superstar Joel Plaskett, who recognized Mo’s talents while she was still just in high school*. Plaskett’s produced her first two albums, and toured across Canada with him and the Emergency trio. He also recommended she consider covering a song called “Telephones,” which Mo played Sunday night. It was written by the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia group Mardeen, seen in the video below, and also has great lyrics.

The rest of her set unfolded rapidly, compressing an hour into what seemed mere minutes, though it was actually almost another ten songs. Mo Kenney is on tour in the US over the next few weeks, with stops coming up in Syracuse, Buffalo, Washington, DC, Northampton, MA, and Saratoga Springs, NY, and several other towns. (details here and below). If you’re in any of these locales, I urge you to go hear Mo Kenney. She’s a brilliant songwriter, an engaging performer, a savvy song picker, and a big talent. She ended the night by telling one more story, about how devastated she’d been by David Bowie’s death (“I took out all my LPs, began playing them while weeping, a lump on the floor,” he’d meant so much to her in formative years.), and then played a cover of Bowie’s song, “Five Years,” with the timeless verse “Your face, your race, the way that you talk/I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk.” Kyle and I really enjoyed Mo’s performance and visiting with her after the show.

Here also are some pictures I took when I heard Mo last summer at the CBC Music Festival.

*Source for this is Grant Lawrence of CBCMusic

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Matt Andersen and Lee Harvey Osmond at Rockwood Music Hall, Friday March 18 + Mo Kenney, Sunday, 3/20

Looking forward to hearing Matt Andersen & Lee Harvey Osmond Friday 3/18 at Rockwood Music Hall NYC. Andersen’s powerful voice reminds of Greg Allman’s, while Osmond’s also got major vocal tone. Below are music videos by both artists. Admission is a very reasonable $15.
Click this link to get ticket info for Friday night’s show, a rare live appearance for both in NYC.

The booker at Rockwood is on a roll this week, as Sunday night March 20 they have Mo Kenney on one of their three stages. I hope to catch her show, too. Ticket info here, only $10.

Andersen:

Osmond:

Kenney:

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI