And I was there to welcome her home.
For those of you who’ve never been, The Rebel Lounge is a cozy venue formerly known as the Mason Jar. Since 1979, the building has hosted performances from a plethora of artists from Nirvana to Jimmy Eat World and, now, Zella Day.
The night began with a bouncy, energetic performance from 18-year-old Dylan Gardner who began creating his debut LP “Adventures in Real Time,” after moving to Arizona in 2010. Throughout the performance, he changed instruments based on the atmosphere he wanted each song to create, and I think it worked. Each instrument he chose had a certain character that matched the feelings I think he tried to produce. One song stood out in particular. “The Actor,” had a certain depth to it that made it sound more personal and intimate than any of the other songs he performed. I highly suggest checking it out. His music is available on Google Play Music, Spotify and Apple Music.
“Hawai is a band, not a state.”
Hawai (the second group of performers) is Jake Pappas, Casey Lagos, Jared Slaybaugh, Matt Gillen and Jesse Dorman, “longtime friends and brothers,” (quote taken from the band’s bio page on their website) who grew up in Orange County, California. They began writing music at a young age and after reconnecting in recent years, they will be releasing their five track EP in early 2016. They’ve released two songs on Soundcloud already, “In My Head,” and “Fault.” This band has a slow, peaceful sound with lyrics and notes that seem to flow naturally, whether that be from their voices or their instruments. I’m really looking forward to snapping up their EP when it releases. (Side note: I regret not getting a hard copy at the concert)
Finally, we’ve arrived at Zella Day’s set.
Zella Day Kerr, known on stage as simply Zella Day, hails from a small town in northern Arizona called Pinetop. Being a fellow Arizona native, I’ve actually been there and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s small, yes, but that’s part of it’s charm. It’s peaceful and mystical and in a state dominated by cacti, it’s one of the best places to escape to if you need trees. Real trees.
The smallness of her hometown contributed to her formation into a musician. Her parents owned a coffee shop in town with a stage. As early as the age of nine, Zella began learning and playing the guitar at the shop, and three years later, began writing her own songs. I think the close-knit environment allowed her to focus on her music and protect her sound from outside influences, which allowed it to become so unique.
Zella Day released her first album “Powered by Love” in 2009 but it wasn’t met with much success. Flash forward to her 2015 release of “Kicker,” and it’s already hit no. 7 on Billboard’s Hot U.S. Alternative chart.
The night of the concert, Zella Day played every song from “Kicker,” along with a cover of The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” the latter specially dedicated to her father.
Zella Day’s performance style reminded me a little of my favorite artist, Lorde. They both move around on stage and use all the space available to them in a way that gets the audience excited about being there. At one point during one of my favorite songs from “Kicker,” “Mustang Kids,” she grabbed a fans Polaroid picture and stuck it to her forehead while she rocked the tambourine. She told us how much she appreciated our support multiple times, and how glad she was to be home and I felt so proud to be a fan.
Zella Day’s sound is eclectic. It’s deep and brooding, memorable and surprisingly bright. There are darker sounds in her songs which were effectively conveyed in her live performance of them, especially “Jameson,” which she told us was “written in her fuzzy socks.” Other songs like “Hypnotic,” and “Shadow Preachers,” easily two of her most well-known songs – in my opinion – have dark themes but are extremely memorable and light. They’re very easy to sing along to, and we all did just that, and it was amazing being in a small room, with all these people I didn’t know and just have this thing in common with them. This artist with the capability to create lyrics we all know. That’s one of my favorite things about concerts, you can go in knowing nothing about the people around you but for that short period of time, they’re like a little family, bound together by their love of music.
This concert was easily one of my favorites. Zella Day’s vocals on a live stage are incredible and if you get the chance, see her in concert. You won’t regret it.
Zella Day performs later this year at Billboard’s Hot 100 Festival in New York.
All the artists I mentioned can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
*Photos were taken from the artists’ Instagram accounts unless otherwise stated.*
**Like this article? Find it and others like it at http://www.cotmasounds.wordpress.com**