Meg Mac @ Black Bear Lodge, 25th September
Black Bear Lodge has an exotic-cider, roaring-fire, bearded-waitstaff kind of feel, and is pretty dead at 7pm. Needless to say, by the time opening band Rainy Day Women ambled onto the stage, I was ready.
Rainy Day Women are four gangly guys who play a friendly brand of beachy, summertime pop. They rock out with a distinctly 60s feel, showcasing Beach Boys harmonies and doo-wop keyboard riffs they draw the small crowd of chatting bar-lingerers slowly forward. It’s a barefooted, sunny-sky-gazing sound, featuring a good dose of falsetto and echo-y power chords – even some, more than a little awkward, hip thrusting from bassist and guitarist – but after a few songs it starts to feel a little disconnected. By the end of their set, the crowd has doubled in size in anticipation for Meg‘s set, but Rainy Day Women leave the stage unceremoniously.
We wait about half an hour for Meg Mac, and people crowd through the doors of the intimate venue, crushing forward, getting antsy with excitement. Suddenly, a soulful drum beat starts, and the audience collectively sways forward in anticipation as Meg, dressed in a black velvet jumpsuit and her characteristic dark lipstick, jumps on stage. The mixing is terrible at first, only a sliver of her voice is heard, fading in and out around too-heavy drums and bass. Thankfully, she asks the sound technicians for some adjustments, and then kicks into Turning from her debut EP.
From this moment, she is mesmerising.
Her voice is so clear and powerful that it seems to jump out of her little body with physical force and she jumps with little wild gestures as she casts out this raw, deep, soulful presence into a totally captivated room. There’s no pretence; her voice and lyrics are both passionate and honest, while she stays unassuming. After the track, she chats amiably to the audience about nail-painting and songwriting before launching into Known Better, the angry soul track that gets everyone swaying and singing like a Southern gospel choir.
Her entire set is hypnotic, her harmonies rich and tight (particularly during tracks like Losing) and her energy, eternally powerful. There are a couple of standout tracks for me; her cover of Bill Withers‘s Grandma’s Hands projects such magical passion that the whole room is absorbed in her voice. There’s a wildness, a rebellion in the air with red lights and red lips and hard edges all around, the audience is mad about it. The second is an unusual one – a song done entirely by Meg on a looping pedal with some very clever harmonies and mixing. Oh, and it’s in French. It’s beautiful and intimate; the crowd is silent and in awe. It may be one of the most captivating song performances I’ve ever seen.
The rest of the set includes her Like A Version cover, Bridges, as well as well-known singles, Every Lie and Roll Up Your Sleeves, to which the audience howls happily. For once, I am enraged at the drunk girls singing around me, simply because I want to hear Meg’s incredible vocal acrobatics. When the hour is up, she thanks us in her friendly, low-key way, and heads offstage, leaving us dazed and in awe.
To sum up in one poorly-conceived pun?