[ATTENDED: October 26, 2016] Shannon Wright
My friend Andrew got us tickets to see Shellac. When I looked to see who was opening, the site listed “Shannon Wright.” I had never heard of her. I had t laugh that the blurb on Shellac was literally two sentences. While Wright’s was 8 large paragraphs.
It made me excited to see her, but I had no idea what to expect. And then she came out with just her guitar (and flashbacks to Kishi Bashi’s opener Twain came hurtling at me).
But Wright was no Twain. She started with a looped guitar melody–rather pretty. And then she turned it off–that appears to be her “tuning music” because once she started playing–it sounded nothing like that loop.
Wrights play a very aggressive guitar–she doesn’t strum of pick so much as pluck those string so that they slap back against the guitar. Her low notes are percussive and her high notes are painful. She uses no pick, so it really emphasizes this abrasive style. Her songs have a very steady rhythm on the low notes–very easy to bob your head (or in some cases seriously headbang) along to, while the melody gets hammered out on the high strings.
She sings, although I couldn’t understand a word. Her singing is a kind of low mumble until she occasionally screams in crescendo. From time to time she would almost moonwalk (forwards) across the stage, playing some wild solos. She would swing her guitar around, playing very hard and fast with a ferocity that I haven’t really seen before.
Every few songs she would say “thanks” in a quiet whisper then turn on her “tuning music,” tune up and let loose again.
In the spirit of Shellac, it was very minimal. There were two spotlights on her, and that was it–a very dark show. I never saw her face because her hair was over it the whole time. It was a cathartic performance although the highlight was definitely the last song when she added a drumbeat. Not that her earlier songs didn’t have a percussive element, but the drum beat allowed for a bit more freedom. This song lasted awhile and when the drums ended and she hunched over in fort of the crowd playing really loud chords (with no pick remember–her hand must be hard as nails) it went on and on and on like she was possessed.
I was entranced and uncomfortable all at the same time.
I have no idea what any of the songs were or even really how many she played (8 or 9?). And every song seemed to be stripped raw. Realistically a twenty-minute set would have been enough for me, because the songs did start to sound the same. But she really prepped us for Shellac, and that’s what she was supposed to do.
I have just listened to some more things from her online. It appears that she often appears with a band, and I think that would be the best introduction to her music. It was still abrasive and loud, but it was somewhat more conventional with the rest of the band. Also, her singing was more understandable during those videos. Perhaps she was singing louder in our setting or the guitars were noisier to compensate for the lack of a band, or who knows what. I now feel like we got a special kind of performance compared to the more normal ones. Even if I still feel that a person with a guitar and nothing else can be a hard show to judge.