On one of many stages scattered throughout New York City in honor of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference last Saturday, scrunched gold curtains enclosed an ascending piano as My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden climbed on stage at Rockwood Music Hall.
Accompanied by an animated Nathan Lithgow on bass and Brian Wolfe on drums — to call them a band would be a misnomer, since Worden performs with different instrumentalists in nearly every show — she opened with the heavy, quick-tempoed “I Am Not That Bad Guy.” The intimate crowd at the Lower East Side’s Rockwood Music Hall erupted in cheers as she prefaced the song by belting “Put on your red shoes and dance” as a nod to David Bowie. The electricity of her guitar and bright purple hues of her pantsuit jolted awake any audience members who were fading after the night’s three previous acts.
Though My Brightest Diamond’s entrance elicited the most excitement, the evening’s greatest charms were the lesser-known openers. Kate Davis, one of MTV’s “fresh females who will rule pop,” sung emotive ballads like “We Are Growing Old” in a rich voice designed for folk tunes and reminiscent of The Weepies’ Deb Talan. Chris Eldridge of progressive bluegrass group Punch Brothers performed a haunting cover of Elliott Smith’s “Angeles,” as well as more lighthearted melodies, one inspired by the PlayStation 2 game Rygar, alongside double-bassist Sam Grisman.
Rockwood’s biggest treat, however, was singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane’s musical rendition of a Craigslist ad titled “Neurotic and Lonely,” in which a “slightly hunched, occasionally employed” 20-year-old living with his parents solicits the company of a “gorgeous, artsy, genius woman” with a video game system. This number was from Kahane’s opera Craiglistlieder, but he also performed poetic tracks from his latest album The Ambassador with Bon Iver guitarist and violinist Rob Moose.
After My Brightest Diamond closed with “Inside a Boy,” the audience chanted for an encore to no avail; the group remained backstage. I’d been crossing my fingers for “Something of an End,” but perhaps any extra ingredients would have thrown the lineup’s eclectic recipe off balance, and I felt sated.