When you have to walk miles in the summer heat because your car got towed and you don't even care afterwards, the show definitely deserves a spot in any top ten. I was in Baltimore Friday for Otakon, but was really there for Rainer Maria later that night. By the time I got back to where I parked my it was half past six so I was officially carless until Monday morning. In keeping with my Otakon tradition of representing a band from Charm City, I had worn my Thrushes tee and it was soaked after the arduous three mile trek. Even worse than the physical exhaustion, I spent the entire walk in half panic and full stress. If I couldn't find a usb port to charge my phone I would have no way to get home.
All of my anguish disappeared the moment I entered the Ottobar. Lindsey's saccharine voice has a punk edge to it or maybe it's vice versa. Either way, its infectious cadence proved enough to erase all my worries. It helps that Ray, who books lots of house shows around my neighborhood, sits behind the drums. Add Ryan's bass to the mix and it's a party. I have seen Snail Mail multiple times before and I never tire of its pop sensibilities. They saved the best for last with Lindsey closing out the set solo.
I was glued to my phone while waiting for Rainer Maria to take the stage when a woman leaned in and said, "I like your shirt." Looking up, my eyes widened in surprise as I saw Anna. Or the vocal/guitarist of the very band whose shirt I was wearing! Suffice to say, that was beyond cool.
Mere seconds into the set, I had an epiphany. I had seen Yui hours prior at Otakon where she sang to a piano backing track while a keyboard sat on stage. Rainer Maria provided a sharp contrast in their approach to making and playing music. The former put on a performance whereas the latter brought music to life before an audience.
I had the immense fortune to stand right below Kaia and the manner in which their fingers touched, glided and plucked the strings is enough to incite anyone to wonder about how those tools of art would feel in more intimate places. Caithlin's maudlin and pensive voice remains the trademark sound that defines the band so many years later. And then there's the eternally passionate William who spares no emotion on the drums.
Seeing the Brooklyn triforce reminded me why live music is so euphoric. It's lovemaking with instruments. Can a car do that?
This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.
[words and photo of Rainer Maria by The Paper]