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Sound Stage

Playing for no one

9/4/2013

Mid-week music is a tough sell in this town. I don’t understand why, because people still go to late movies and to bars and to baseball games, but stick a live band in a place, and suddenly everyone decides they have to get up early. That’s a shame, because there are nights like last Wednesday, when the city misses something magical while frat-boy-karaoke on Court Avenue draws triple the crowd.

Jillette Johnson performing at Vaudeville Mews last week.

Jillette Johnson performing at Vaudeville Mews last week.

Wednesday night at Vaudeville Mews was opened up by MaryBeth Doran. We just featured her last week at Shoot the Chutes, but I wanted to see her again to see if I’d just caught her on a good day, or if she was actually legit. It wasn’t just a good day, and it’s safe to say that the Minnesota-born Doran is a genuine talent, with one of the most charming stage presences you’ll find.

Second on the bill was Nashville-based four piece, Satellite. As an indie rock outfit, there’s no doubt it has talent and is well-polished. Everything it played this particular evening was radio-ready, though a little nondescript, or, as a friend put it, “I could see this song being on the soundtrack for a movie I didn’t bother to see.”

But the true revelation of the night was New York-based Jillette Johnson. For the last hour of the evening, this little girl who looks like Marissa Tomei and sounds like Lana Del Rey poured her heart out for seven people and the other bands. Johnson is a heart-wrenching songwriter whose pleading, aching vocals drive home moments of genuine vulnerability. Of her originals, Johnson’s creative highpoint was the emotionally crippling “Pauvre Coeur,” but the entire evening was stolen by her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” which Johnson’s voice transformed from Thom Yorke’s sedated dirge into a wailing gut-punch of a ballad. CV

Barmuda