Johnny Brenda’s featured a fundraiser Jan. 12 for Weathervane Music, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit known for producing the Web video series “Shaking Through,” which documents “the birth of a song.” More specifically, up-and-coming artists write and record a song in two days, and the whole process is filmed, recorded and released for free to the public. The bill for the evening was composed entirely of artists who have participated in an episode of “Shaking Through”: Twin Sister, Ava Luna and newcomer Steven A. Clark, whose episode premiered at the event. While “Shaking Through” is a worthy cause and the evening was a generally positive experience, the performances that made up the bulk of the fundraiser ranged from good to mediocre at best.
After listening to the entertaining DJ Bearbait spin music for some time, Ava Luna took the stage first. Describing themselves as “nervous soul,” Ava Luna featured two keyboardists, two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer, with one of the male musicians and two of the female musicians singing. While they were all quite talented at their instruments and were entertaining to watch, their entire sound felt too heavily indebted to Dirty Projectors — the interaction between the singers, the off-kilter guitar parts, the rhythm-and-blues influences — making the entire set come off as derivative and not particularly original. This isn’t to say they were bad, per se; I just found myself wondering why I wasn’t listening to superior Dirty Projectors songs throughout their set.
Soon after, Steven A. Clark took the stage, accompanied by a guitarist and laptop performer. Clark’s voice was fine, if unremarkable, but the instrumentation and song structures felt incomplete. Most of the backing tracks sounded like demos that Clark had worked out in GarageBand hours before, and the guitar parts did not coexist well with the rest of the sounds onstage. The entire performance was weak, and despite his set being rather short, I found myself tiring of it by the end. Clark was the subject of the most recent episode of “Shaking Through,” which premiered after his set; when the video concluded, he took to the stage to perform the song he had written for the series. Backed by a live band, the song was a notable step up in quality from the tunes he had previously performed, but on the whole it was not terribly exciting.
Finally, Long Island-based dream pop band Twin Sister took the stage well behind schedule. Most of their set was performed in relative darkness and obscured by smoke, a touch that may complement their aesthetic but does little in the way of making a show exciting. While the band’s sound, indebted to ’80s pop, was well executed, the performance was simply the last in a series of good-if-unremarkable sets for the evening.
The cause that the show benefited is well worth supporting. However, their concert could have been substantially better. At the very least, there are many more episodes of “Shaking Through” to look forward to, which is something to get excited about.
For more information about “Shaking Through,” visit shakingthrough.com.