Lauren Mann and keyboardist/husband Zoltan Szoges roust the crowd at Neurolux.
“You guys can join us up here if you want,” Lauren Mann told the 15-person crowd at Neurolux near the start of her set.
No one moved. However, the song that followed the Calgary musician’s invitation earned a round of loud applause.
In spite of a meager turnout, Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk
delivered a polished, enthusiastic performance on Thursday, July 25. The audience responded by whooping, whistling and clapping to the beat.
With its sweet, girly high end, Mann’s voice might have struck some as twee at first. But as the set progressed, the richness and strength of her lower register became unmistakable. Consequently, she sounded compassionate rather than neurotic when she sang, “We’re fragile, needing much / We’re delicate to the touch.”
The music itself followed suit. Propulsive, rock-steady rhythms provided a solid foundation for soothing keyboards, chiming guitar and fresh folk-pop melodies. This winning combination took a humorous turn when Mann played an excerpt from Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” while her band laid down a slick, funky beat.
In addition to Mann, three other acts performed. The first, St. Louis, Mo., musician Kevin Schlereth
, was added to the bill at the last minute. Schlereth’s anxious, whiny tenor and relentlessly sardonic lyrics grew a bit tiresome in spite of his set’s brevity. Some self-deprecating banter (“If you want to hear more songs from me, that’s foolish!”) added a welcome and sorely needed touch of frivolity.
Local act Holly Johnson Loves You
played immediately before Lauren Mann. For the first few songs, Johnson’s Korg synthesizer refused to respond. Although the problem was eventually fixed, her confidence never seemed to fully recover. Nonetheless, her catchy tunes, percolating beats and swooning vocals had plenty of appeal.
, aka local musician Kristy Scott, fared best of the three openers. Scott’s eerie melodies and terse, haiku-like lyrics were well served by her deft, pristine vocals. Recordings of wind chimes and chirping crickets added dramatic power to her singing and her elegantly simple guitar lines.
Still, Mann’s set was the concert’s indisputable highlight. Before the last song, she entreated the audience once more to come up and dance. Eight people complied. Zoltan Szoges, the band’s keyboardist and Mann’s husband, handed out egg-sized shakers and a tambourine before rolling a comically oversized marching drum onto the dance floor. Three people gamely beat on the drum while they danced.
Mann said after the show that she and the band would return next Spring. Hopefully, more people will come down when they do.