Jessica Lea Mayfield certainly doesn’t fit any particular mold: she looks punk, all skinny as a twig, leather jacket, bright pink/blonde short hair, short skirts, and fishnets; she talks like a rocker, with her extra slow, almost slurred speech and witty phrases; she sings in a bright, clear tone with a bit of a country drawl; and she plays grungy, distorted riffs and solos on guitar. She’s got a little bit of everything going for her, and, above all else, she knows how to use it. She’s come a very long way.
From the minute she stepped on stage at The Crocodile last Monday night – the Seattle stop on tour promoting her 2014 alternative-grunge album Make My Head Sing – it was clear she’s being doing this her whole life. No hesitations, no awkward introductions, no unnecessary pauses.
Mayfield opened with a song about “those days where you barely have time to clean the house, do the dishes, make the bed, and hang yourself before your husband gets home,” a more punkish song than many of her others, but with lyrics that resonated with me:
Do I have the time to do the things / I wanna do when you’re away
If you think you’ll miss me / Then resuscitate me
My mouth is turning blue / It tastes like blood and barbecue
So if you don’t see what you need in me then let me know
The song’s upbeat tempo plays in perfect contrast to the dark lyrics, offering a sentiment I have felt before: if we give too much of ourselves, if we subscribe to a standard life, do we lose the time, drive, ability, freedom to do what we want?
Mayfield and her band (drummer and husband bass player) rolled through songs that varied quite a bit in sound, sometimes bringing out a bit more of the bluegrass feel that hides beneath her grungy appearance. That drawl in her voice came out (the style reminding me of Jenny Lewis from her days with the Watson Twins), and her impeccable drummer guided the songs with his impressively crafted and varied beats
Between songs, of course, the man-packed crowd screamed that they loved her, that she should take off her clothes, to which she replied that she “tried that once. Everyone asked for their money back.” I laughed. The crowd booed.
My favorite, and perhaps a crowd favorite, too, was “Oblivious.” The song kicked off with deliciously fuzzy distortion from Mayfield’s guitar—definitely a true rock song, nodding to her personal musical influences.
Mayfield’s evolution over the past few years, both in music and in looks, suits her well. She’s been making a name for herself and cementing her place as more than a child musician, and it’s clear she’ll stick around.
Israel Nash opened the show, accompanied by Eric Swanson on pedal steel and vocal harmony, promoting his album Rain Plans that drops in the US on August 19.
Nash’s passion oozed from the stag and his deep voice rang beautifully, both when he sang soft and contemplative lines and when he pushed grit into the words, convincing the audience that he indeed believes what he sings. I don’t doubt for a second that Nash was born to sing and perform music.
My only wish during Nash’s set was for a full band: sometimes the songs seemed a bit similar, and I think a bassist and a drummer would fill out the sound and guide the songs with tempo and rhythm changes, making them more dynamic.
Lucky for us, though, Nash plans to return to Seattle in the fall, full band in toe.