Watching experimental folk artist, Emily Wells, perform is like watching some sort of strange cooking show. Instead of chicken, artichoke hearts and onions, Wells saunters around the stage making symphonies out of xylophones, mallets, and toy pianos.
Anne Carmack Emily Wells
While the music was multifaceted, layered and entrancing, it was not a very captivating performance just as I'd way rather shove Martha's next concoction in my face than watch her make it.
During the set singer-songwriter, Wells, incorporated some old symphonies such as, "Symphony #4 America's Mercy War" plus some new tracks like, "Whiskey and Rags" from her recently released EP Dirty.
Using a variety of instruments, including a toy echo microphone and a melodica (a miniature keyboard with a tube on the end, which you blow into to produce a sound somewhere between a harmonica and an accordion), Wells creates a deeply layered, jazzy yet synthesized sound which she peppers with raspy vocals that resemble Bob Dylan and Norah Jones' fictional love child.Inspired by "rap music and Vivaldi," Wells performs eerily enchanting tunes that encompasses both. My favorite by far was her cover of Notorious B.I.G's classic "Juicy." Just as a cover should be, it was an artistic interpretation that teetered between recognizable and completely original.
"Juicy" was a hit and so was Wells, but the atmosphere was still lacking. The sounds of Wells' majestic and haunting symphonies filled every corner of the Vera Project, but juxtaposed the awkwardly lame handful of people that showed up. The low attendance may have been due to scheduling technical difficulties (there was some confusion about whether the show would be on the 7th or 8th); a few people sat around the edges, while a few others stood no closer than ten feet from the stage.
Wells encouraged "dancing and spinning" but was disappointed after one song, saying, "Man, we were really hoping the dancing would break out after that one." She did get almost 30 seconds of motion from one lady in a flowing skirt and top hat. Besides that, the only audience involvement came when giggles broke out after a guy farted into the deafening silence in between sets. Hopefully a larger, more enthusiastic crowd will turn out for her performance with the Portland Cello Project at The Triple Door on June 11th.