On November 17th, Asheville-based musician Indigo De Souza and openers melon in and Truth Club took the stage at New Brookland Tavern. Gradually, the perceptible air of excitement swelled, the collective attention settling on the front of the room, as the show kicked off.
What struck me most about the first opener, local indie rock group melon in, was how visibly immersed the whole band was in their performance. Smiles and soft head-banging accompanied the bass and guitar lines, while lead singer Ony Ratsimbaharison’s closed eyes and reserved body language made her melancholic delivery all the more affecting. At times, she lowered her voice to match the volume of the fuzzy instrumentals, but even then, it maintained enough strength to avoid getting swallowed up in the sound.
Outside, my friends and I bumped into the band’s guitarist, Gabe (who also plays in local groups Charlie Boy and Flippants,) and he told us that Ratsimbaharison writes each member’s parts, including her own. He divulged, “She’s a genius. I love playing everything she writes.” Melon in has no shortage of talent, enthusiasm, or love for the music they create, and it’s abundantly clear when they’re on stage.
The name of the second opening band, Truth Club, led me to expect catchy albeit slightly generic pop-punk fare. But I was pleasantly surprised with something much more substantive: punchy and post-punk, dark at times and irresistibly catchy at others. Their influences are easily identifiable, but work in tandem to fashion an engrossing and addictive sound nonetheless.
Their lyrics impressed me too—if the genre I was anticipating is what you listen to as an angsty teenager, then Truth Club is the soundtrack of angsty adulthood, embodying themes of existentialism, outgrowing, and strange in-betweens that young (and old) adults navigate every day. As achingly real as lines like “Yesterday, I went home / Or at least the place where it’s supposed to be” are, it’s also affirming to know that such sensations of displacement and loss are represented in someone’s lyrics.
As they performed, the band played around with tempo, dynamics, and discontinuity, teasing the audience with moments of quiet or even complete silence before drawing them right back in for unpredictable apotheoses, heightened by Harrington’s emotive, quavering vocals. As I later found out, much of their setlist was comprised of new songs set to appear on an upcoming album. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting its release.
By the time Indigo came out on stage, there was a palpable fervor buzzing about the room. As the delicate falsettos of the night’s first song, “Late Night Crawler,” bled into its gripping chorus, the crowd’s energy became more and more charged. From there, the band went on to play several songs off their sophomore album, Any Shape You Take, including the groovy “Hold U,” the unrestrained “Real Pain” (complete with shrill tones reminiscent of the fan-submitted shrieks featured on the studio version of the song), and the earwormy-y yet sorrowful “17.”
Regardless of the occasional voice crack, courtesy of a whole tour’s worth of live performances, the execution seemed basically effortless. De Souza apologized for the quality of her voice, but if anything, her ability to belt out big notes, transition into unwavering falsettos, and during particularly impassioned moments, utter guttural screams into the mic, all after
months of performing on a near-nightly basis, was a demonstration of her vocal capacity and dedication as an artist, and only added to her warm reception. This performance was markedly different from her patio show at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, which I was lucky enough to go to in November of last year—a much more intimate affair due to the small attendance, coupled with her decision to play exclusively unreleased songs that night (In retrospect, I realize that “Pretty Pictures,” a track from the new album, was one of them).
Despite the deep love fans harbor for her previous record, she made it clear that she wanted a little distance from it, and so I wondered if anything from I Love My Mom would have a place in the New Brookland setlist. As it turns out, she ended up playing three older tracks: “The Sun is Bad,” “Sick in the Head,” and “Home Team,” and carried them out with the same
rousing conviction, perhaps a testament to the lingering effects of past emotional states. There was something for everyone, listeners new and old.
Although this concert was at the near-end of the tour, I have no doubt it was just as flawless and compelling as her earliest shows. Between numbers, De Souza was soft-spoken (although never lacking in presence), but when she dove back into songs, it was always with all the feeling in the world, as if each time she was newly tapping into that supply of raw emotion that bred them in the first place. Watching her feel so deeply and express herself so unapologetically created an ambience of openness and catharsis—a space where, at least for a night, anyone who came was allowed and encouraged to do the same.