Joan As Policewoman, The New Mary Jane, Jessie Frye
April 29, 2011
Better than: superstars seen from great distance, and police from up close.
Sometimes, expectations get exceeded. And, on Friday night at Club Dada, Joan Wasser, who performs under the monikers of Joan as Policewoman, easily exceeded those of her Dallas fans.
Wearing a white jumpsuit -- a fashion nod, perhaps, to the '70s, when Angie Dickinson served as the Police Woman -- Wasser delivered an arresting (sorry, couldn't resist) performance. Her three-piece band featured a standing Wasser switching between keys and guitar, drummer Parker Kindred and Tyler Wood on moog, bass and keys (with both male members providing backing harmonies).
It was a case study of the whole sounding much bigger than the sum of the parts, enabled by Wasser's huge and extremely agile voice.
Singing into a dual microphone rig, Wasser used her voice to sing her thoughtful lyrics one moment, and as a soloing instrument (distorted through effects pedals) the next. With her music as rooted in the late '70s as her namesake, Wasser and her band sounded like a mashup of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell -- praise intended in the most complimentary way possible.
The set skewed as might be expected to The Deep Field, an album that is musically more energetic than Wasser's first two solo albums. High points of the set included "Nervous" (with a muscular guitar solo by Wasser) and "Run For Love" (with her voice substituting for the guitar solo). Consider that it is violin and string arrangements -- and neither her voice nor her guitar play -- that gets acts such as Rufus Wainwright and Antony and the Johnsons to engage Wasser in collaborations, and you realize what a huge talent she is.
Adding a bit of strangeness to the evening was the sudden appearance of a film crew and reality show characters for something about Dallas singles. [Editor's Note: This show, we think.] Wasser and the band were completely nonplussed by the spectacle, although Kindred's eyebrows pushed up to form quote marks on his forehead as he watched from behind his kit.
The evening started with a set by local chanteuse Jesse Frye. Absent her complete band, Frye, accompanied only by guitarist Michael Garcia, delivered a fine set showcasing her truly lovely voice. Garcia's guitar work was especially sly, with delays and effects making for an extraordinary sound, including a great "cello" solo.
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Following Jesse Frye was The New Mary Jane, a noisy electronics trio from Memphis recruited by Wasser for this leg of the tour. Creating music out of feedback loops and processed vocals, they sounded like an avant garde Animal Collective and were huge fun -- if a bit out of place for an otherwise vocal-centric evening.
Peronsal Bias: I love deeply talented artists that are fully engaged with their audience. In addition to a hilarious set of thanks that even extended to local mainstay Bob for showing Wasser his keyboard, Joan worked her merch table and had unhurried conversations with her fans.
Random Note: Watching an animated Wasser standing behind her keyboard singing reminded me of one of my favorite white soul vocalists: Daryl Hall.
By The Way: Wasser frequently tours and sells out much larger venues in Europe. Playing before a crowd of perhaps 80 at Club Dada on a Friday night, however, did not diminish her enthusiasm or her band's.