Since the Baraboo, Wisconsin based six-piece alt folk band Phox went announced their hiatus in 2016, many were worried they wouldn’t have the pleasure of hearing lead singer Monica Martin’s voice again for a long while. We should have had more faith when she said she’d see us soon, but I think we were all surprised to see her collaborate with the Jeremy Larson project, Violents. With Martin’s voice is mind, Larson penned Violents’ first full length effort called Awake & Pretty Much Sober, that landed the duo a permanent spot in my record collection, and cemented itself as one of the best musical pairings of recent times.
Following the singer on Instagram yields a deeper look into what Martin has been up to since then. A move across the country to Los Angeles, collaborations with various musicians, including Jack Stratton of Vulfpeck fame, and snippets of her smoky vocals all seemed to serve as tiny breadcrumbs to what was to come – a solo project beginning with “Cruel,” a punchy, dreamy track that is impossible to not sing along with, followed by “Thoughtless,” is an all too familiar account of trying to apply pearls of wisdom to your own life.
When the singer announced shows in NY and LA, I made sure to get a front row seat to hear and experience this new chapter of Martin’s life and I was not disappointed. With the help of opening act MMEADOWS, whose lead singer Kristin Slipp’s effortless vocals surprised the hell out of me, by the way, delivered an upbeat set of electronic pop that had the bounce and effervescence of 80’s music but steered far away from campy territory and into a downright good time. The double “M” in the band’s name wasn’t lost on me as I pondered their pairing with Monica Martin, which the band also noted and joked about during their set.
With an easy transition into Martin’s set, beginning with the aforementioned “Cruel,” the band, having only performed live once together before this set sounded tight as hell and like they’d been together for years. After that I was fully on board. The fact that all of the songs Martin sang were brand new to our ears didn’t matter. Well… all of the songs except one clever cover of Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman,” which Martin took turns injecting her own hilarious lyrics into along with background singer Tierney Chamberlain. I also smiled when I recognized a familiar Phox face, with Matteo Roberts on keys, and James Cornielson, who I last saw on guitar with Theo Katzman.
Throughout the night, Martin’s candid stage banter and easy humor was on full display, and as no stranger to the things that might fly out of her mouth, I was not alone during the multiple times I burst into laughter. The matter of factness and unabashed honesty any time Martin spoke is one of my favorite parts of attending a performance of hers. She makes everyone feel at ease – like we’ve all just been able to relate to any of the awkward things she may have said because we’ve all been there. Couple that personality with a voice like hers and it’s virtually impossible to dislike her. The night flew by all too fast, and left everyone wondering, “when would we get the chance to hang out again?”
Article: Lesley Keller