As a reviewer under 21, I have very little experience with small sit down venues. Mikey Wax at Velo Cult gave me a little glimpse of what I have to look forward to. Though, I don’t think there is anything like this place anywhere else but Portland Oregon.
I never talk about the venue in my reviews, but this isn’t like any other venue. It’s a pub and a bike shop all in one. Bikes hang from the ceiling, and beer samples come to the tables on skateboards. The uniqueness of this venue plays a huge role in the performances themselves.
Haley Johnsen starts off the night. With her red vintage hat and her knee length vest, she looks like a Stevie Nicks wannabe. That is, until you hear her sing, she’s not so much a wannabe as the next Stevie Nicks (I’m calling it right now). I instantly imagine being a judge on The Voice turning around with the first word of her first song, “Cuts And Bruises.” Her voice is pure, deep and sultry making it perfect for this setting. She has one of those voices that every little girl, who wants to be a rock star, dreams of having (me included). Following her second song, “Broken Open,” she brings our attention to the venue, “I feel super hipster being here…I feel like I should be some hardcore biker chick being in here, but I’m not, I’m from the suburbs.” She says what all of us have been thinking, but it’s Portland, so the juxtaposition is expected. Her sixth song is a cover. Not just any cover either. With a voice like hers, you know it’s probably going to be earth shattering. She chose “It’s A Man’s World” by James Brown and as I predicted, it is earth shattering. She finishes her set with my new favorite song, “Love Can’t Calm Me Down” she prefaces it with, “it’s become a bit of a country song, but I still like it.” There was no need for a preface because this feels like pure classic rock to me.
While Johnsen, being native to Portland only opened for this show, Alexis Keegan has been on the entire tour with Wax. Her sound is pure 90s think softer vibed Destiny’s Child. With most of the audience in their late 20s her sound definitely brings the nostalgia. She begins her set with the soulful, “Just A Little.” Instantly bringing the audience to sway. Her second song, “Are You Gonna Love Me” is one of those instant classics. By the end of the first chorus, I am singing along with her like I’ve known the song my whole life. She ends her set with “Dance With Somebody,” which ends up being the first time the audience sings.
Mikey Wax is what would happen if Adam Levine and Nick Petricca were morphed into one human being. He soars through the high notes with a very Levine tone but has the hypnotizing stage presence of Petricca. He begins with “Alive in New York City,” and with the first note, I’m singing along to every word. As much as this is an amazing venue, it does not invite audience participation. The result? Only two of us are singing at the top of our lungs, but it’s a concert so who the hell cares. Being Mikey Wax he has this magical ability to get the crowd to sing along even when they have no interest in doing so (damn this venue). For “Let You Run” he makes sure the audience sings, “I will be the one, will be the one to let you run.” It’s moments like this where he shows how fantastic a performer he really is.
And then there are moments like in “Last Great Song” which make me question if he is even human. He kicks the rest of the band off the stage and begins playing alone acoustically. One hand is playing the guitar and the other, the piano. I can’t even sing along, I’m too mesmerized.
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a small scale Mikey Wax show. Make sure you do before he starts selling out GA venues across the country.
And don’t forget to check out my interview with Wax here.
You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets for Mikey Wax here.
You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets for Alexis Keegan here.
You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets for Haley Johnsen here.
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