Photo credit: Sasha Hippard
The first, striking feat at Mother Falcon's show on Sunday evening at Joe's Pub was simply fitting onto the stage. The Austin-born ensemble includes 12 musicians, many of them multi-instrumentalists, so the modestly-sized performance area proved to be a tight squeeze. That they pulled off a show in these quarters that felt so free, so unbridled, so utterly uncramped was the group's other, far more impressive accomplishment.
What kind of music does Mother Falcon play? It's historically hard to say — for three years straight, the group won the "Best None of the Above" award at the Austin Music Awards. Call it orchestral, call it pop-rock, call it folk or experimental; while their style defies easy categorization, all their work bears the hallmarks of live energy, musical virtuosity and a tight-knit group dynamic.
When Mother Falcon plays slowly, their sound is hypnotic and swirling. When they speed up, the ground shakes. Many of the songs they played Sunday started gently and built up to a euphoric crescendo, combing both of these experiences into a progression that had momentum and vigor. Nick Gregg, who plays cello and mandolin, and Claire Puckett, who plays guitar and a variety of other instruments, provided lovely harmonies. In one waltz-like number, accordionist Tamir Khalifa sang beautifully.
As if the stage wasn't crowded enough, halfway through the concert the group added violinist Todd Reynolds to the mix. With only a laptop and his instrument, Reynolds first performed solo, playing Michael Lowenstern's "Crossroads," which uses an old Robert Johnson sample. In performance with Mother Falcon, Reynolds used looping and other digital effects to create a richly layered soundscape. In one exciting moment, Reynolds and a saxophonist fell into a improvisational back and forth, which was a joy to watch and hear. Reynolds seemed to be a natural fit for the group.
Mother Falcon heads to Los Angeles next month to promote their upcoming second album. If their performance in New York is any indication, they'll soar wherever they go.