Martha Wainwright/Joe's Pub/ April 12, 2005
Anyone else here think that Joe’s Pub has the best sound in the city? I don’t go a lot, but almost every time the sound has been perfect, almost chillingly so. There was one marrow-melting Grant Lee Phillips show there about five years ago that I just don’t think you could even replicate anywhere else.
I hadn’t been to Joe’s Pub since the Dresden Dolls about a year and half ago, so last night I was sort of startled by what seems to be a new seat reservation policy. I got there plenty early and they asked if I had a seat reservation and I was, like, uhhhh. So they told me I had to stand at the bar in the back. I was not pleased. I was able to infiltrate the table of a splayed-haired guy who looked like a backup musician of some kind (you know that look, right?) by just being forward and asking if there was anyone else sitting there. He was nice. What’s up with this seat reservation thing? Is it for every show? Do you have to pay more?
But back to the topic at hand. Martha Wainwright. She looks like a 70s burn out, a delicate cross-pollination of Stevie Nicks and Cherrie Currie. Her new self-titled record has really started to grow on me. Her voice is this almost twee tremolo that rides into instant signature territory. A Martha Wainwright song can always be picked up out of an aural line-up. The only thing the songs on this diverse new record of hers have in common is her voice and her sticky phrasing that French kisses vowels.
This night the only appearance made by a famous relative was by her mom, Kate McGarrigle, who flew in from a gig in Amsterdam to play piano for a few songs and kiss “my favorite daughter.” Martha’s dad Loudon is known to be a bit of prick when it comes to competing with his kids in the musical ring; he had a record that came out yesterday, the same day as his daughter’s first full-length and he scheduled a show at Joe’s Pub the night after hers. Maybe it will help her out, who knows? It just seemed lame, like he is trying to pull some spotlight away from her. Not surprising, then, that Martha’s song “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” is about how her dad doesn’t treat her seriously (this ripe song is the most folky one on the record.) I guess he’s treating her seriously now. Where's this family's reality show? It would end up on PBS instead of Fox, but still.
I’m not sure if I was incredibly impressed or a little disappointed that her set, bulked up with songs from the new record, sounded a lot like they do on the disc (a perennial barometer for live music). In this case, I am leaning on the side of impressed. It was a record release show and it played homage to the studio work. As she stood on the stage wielding her simple acoustic guitar, I couldn't help but think: what would a Martha Wainwright/Andrew WK duet sound like? What can I say---the $11 G-n-T was particularly strong. But I actually think it would sound awesome.