By Lucy McCabe
I find myself sitting on a milk crate in the press pit of Brighton Music Hall, watching Emily Massey take her place on the stage, with her hands clasped behind her back as she rocks her shoulders side to side. She is the lead singer and guitarist of Slow Pulp, a young Madison based band that is handling the transition to indie powerhouse without falter.
I am rooted metaphorically and physically, the floor so sticky that picking my foot up felt like stepping out of a glue trap. I consider their household name tag as being polished with the success of their sophomore album Yard, just released in late September. They truly carry a unique sound – a tantalizingly near-cacophonous blend of harmonica and steep guitar riffs you get lost in.
Slow Pulp is a band close to my own heart. After missing their last two shows in Boston, it was third times the charm when I finally got to see the band perform last Friday night. They touched down in Beantown about a year ago as the opener for Alvvays’ North American tour, performing their debut album Moveys to a packed Roadrunner.
This was the most packed I have ever seen Brighton Music Hall, period. Imagine walking through a cattle chute with both sides made of people, clutching your friend’s sweaty palm, just trying to make it to the bathroom without tripping on fifty different pairs of Doc Martens. The audience seemed to adhere to an unofficial dress code of corduroy, flannel, denim, and floor length skirts that easily let me believe I was on the set of The Breakfast Club.
Babehoven opened, and for the record, it was not made clear if their name was pun or not. Lead singer Maya Bon was dressed casually, her hair held back into a long ponytail by a pink scrunchie. Adorned with a baseball cap and dangly earrings, she shushed the crowd for their last song. Recognizing the importance of social media to their growth, they plugged their Instagram at the very end of their set: @babehoven.
Slow Pulp’s setlist jumped back and forth between the old and the new. I am not as familiar with Yard, so I didn’t recognize Fishes when it came on halfway through the set. The soft chorus of the song swam out of Emily’s lips and the lyrics were the stones that had been smoothed by water.
In between songs she engaged the audience, asking questions like, “Anybody on their period?”. The answer: cheers and hand raising. “Maybe Boston is synced up… anyways, hope you don’t have any cramps.” An expectant pause, then “This song is called Cramps.” Ever personable and charismatic, the long-winded dad joke is part of what makes Slow Pulp such a memorable live performance.
Let me bring in Maggie Rogers as a necessary point of reference here. Emily is comparable to Maggie in her ability to shape songs with traditionally southern instruments. Maggie’s banjo and Emily’s harmonica gives their music a strong folk foothold that acts in perfect balance with the texture of each artists’ voice and raw nature of their lyrics, pushing the envelope of the emerging indie scene.
In addition to being graced with three extra songs as part of the encore, the audience received a gauntlet, thrown by Emily: which city could sing High the loudest? The answer – Boston, of course.