With a small synthesizer on a stand in front of her, Camille Lewis playing the drums, percussion and adding some vocals and Kyle Albrecht playing guitar on her left, Madeline Kenney addressed the audience at PhilaMOCA as if she had been asked to play a song for her good friends in her apartment.
The first openers were a New Jersey-based band named Nowadays, and their twenty-something age type rock was endearing, fun and downright a pleasure to watch them work. There were several times where the lead singer and the drummer traded blows between guitar and drums, dueling while adding to an incredible display of talent.
They concluded their set by encouraging the audience to vote and stressing its necessity. And, during the following sets, they were in the back of the audience, soaking in all of the other music available.
It was quite a scene to take in, as a building formerly used for mausoleum exhibits is now bringing life to the art and music scene of Philadelphia. Initially repurposed by Diplo, the ownership of PhilaMOCA has changed hands several times before being handed over to Eric Brresler.
There are plenty of paintings, drawings and sculptures for sale, and there is a full shower stall — entirely painted and adorned with sketches and graffiti — in the bathroom.
“Hey guys,” Kenney said as she sheepishly smiled while looking at the floor, taking off one of her converses to better tune her instruments and sounds as she switchedd to guitar for a couple of her songs. The difference between Kenney while performing and talking is vast; she embodies spunk and power while playing, but is so down-to-earth and humble and kind in the pauses.
A musician and artist, an avid baker, a cartoon enthusiast and a Durham, NC resident, Madeline Kenney has sprung up onto the music scene in the past couple of years. Kenney is yet another budding talent who bolsters the rise of female indie rockers, as they take charge in the latter half of the decade. With similar artists being fellow Durham band Sylvan Esso, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Jenn Wasner, Kenney isn’t alone in her style.
Kenney had two albums, a four-track EP and some singles to choose from for her performance, and while she stuck primarily to her newer release “Perfect Shapes,” the studio tracks were nothing in comparison to the live versions.
Kenney made each song special, tweaking and toying with the arrangements the majority of the time while reaching much higher and louder levels of pitch with her voice. She showcased her range while maintaining a great sound, and she was a pleasure to watch; she was simply having so much fun. Kenney’s records had another punch to them. Their sound was fuller, the layering of sounds was more complex and the acoustics in PhilaMOCA were unbelievable.
The backdrop behind Kenney changed several times with the tone of her songs, but the most constant frame was a cross-hatched moving picture of seemingly random instances fading in-and-out.
Street lamps were on the background during her performance of “Bad Idea,” the second track of “Perfect Shapes.” Kenney’s slow, crooning vocals mixed with the combination of the synthesizer and the slow guitar meant a slower video speed and more inanimate objects.
In the more personal song “Big One” from her first album “Night Night at the First Landing,” there is talk of love and finding “the big one” that Kenney describes. The vague goal seems to be love, and Kenney’s powerful vocals echoed it home, because the person in the song has found love and is finally realizing it.
There was a sketch of fiery plains fading into sailors out asea, in their blue jackets and the recognizable wide-brimmed hats. The ending of the song has a calming, echoed sound that repeats “And we like the sound,” which presumably hints at the narrator liking the sound of being in love. The smooth ending goes with the sailors smoothly sailing out at sea, staying level with the tide.
From the jump, Kenney drove home lyrics with the force of a knockout punch. She hung onto words a little longer, drawing them out until their emphasis was understood. She expelled words like bullets, designed to shoot into your heart and soul and leave an indelible mark. Especially on the slower songs like “Overhead,” Kenney was able to muster profound power into her voice.
“I’ve got demons now, and I still don’t understand why it gets me shaking,” Kenney belted out through semi-gritted teeth. If you looked overhead, you would’ve seen a bright disco ball spinning with flashing lights splattering the ceiling, slowly circling and adding to the entire environment of the show.
After Kenney performed “Perfect Shapes,” her most popular track to date, the crowd let out a big cheer of recognition. Many of the audience members only knew that album, and more specifically that song, so they were thanking Kenney for the performance of her namesake. However, the audience got so much more than just a one-song wonder. Madeline Kenney is one to be witnessed.