By Avi Vinocur. Photos by Avi Vinocur and TJ Mimbs.
So as we speak I’m crammed between an NPR listener, a Louisiana native longing to be home for Jazz Fest, and a cool dude with lensless glasses awaiting the gospel of a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx, who found her home in New Orleans singing mountain music. I love America.
Her name is Alynda Lee Segarra — short, cute, Aubrey Plazaesque (but smiley) with an incredibly evocative voice not quite like anything I’ve heard. fHer songs are simple and short in a way you might find at the Grand Ole Opry in 1950. Currently she is standing on the side of the stage swooning over the opening band Clear Plastic Masks.
I get her attraction. These songs are good. I can tell that Andrew Katz — the Mick Jagger-lipped lead singer — is a closet stand-up comedian. Not to mention they have the most exciting bearded drummer since Meg White. The guy, Charles Garmendia, can’t even stay seated. It’s tough to do so when the guitar tone is this good. I also immediately realize that their song “When the Night Time Comes” contains one of the, if not the, best uses of the phrase “too cool for school” in show business. All in all I’m liking this band. Their energy level is high. How will a girl with a stripped band and an acoustic guitar feel after this?
Clear Plastic Masks photo by Avi Vinocur.
“The Body Electric.” Finally. I was waiting for this song. It strikes me in such an honest earnest way. Maybe it’s the profound simplicity of the song itself — being only two and half chords. Or maybe it’s the fact that this murder ballad, with a titular nod to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, (Whitman too left New York for New Orleans) is one of the few semi-political songs our over-saturated generation can still stomach. I think truly its success is in her delivery of this beautiful poem. Like she is listening to herself say every word and intending every annunciation to be understood by the crowd. Like suddenly she is singing into the eyes of the audience instead of into darkness. This is the song that proves single-handedly that this band has much more depth to uncover as they continue to develop.