by Ben Schultz
When The Maldives played Neurolux last July, lead singer Jason Dodson wore a Neil Young T-shirt. That seemed a bit redundant, given the Seattle band’s folk/country melodies, steady tempos and terse, yowling guitar solos.
Dodson’s shirt read “Mississippi Records” this time around, at Neurolux July 23, but the music still suggested that he and his bandmates have worn out a few copies of Harvest and After the Gold Rush.
In spite of the derivativeness of their material, The Maldives turned in an enjoyable performance. But the two openers, Jan Reed Summerhays and Star Anna, were far more distinctive.
Dodson’s simple fingerpicking and clean, earnest tenor managed just fine on the solo acoustic numbers which kicked off the set. They sounded even better with support from Tim Gadbois’ elegant guitar work and Faustine Hudson’s fluid drumming.
While The Maldives’ groove was more limber than Crazy Horse’s, the lyrics had little of Neil Young’s inspired eccentricity. The group fared best on a couple of pop-rock numbers which sounded closer to Wilco or The Old 97's.
While The Maldives recalled Neil Young, Summerhays sounded like Joni Mitchell or Nick Drake with some Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure.
A relative unknown in the Boise music scene, Summerhays moved here from Logan, Utah in August 2011. She released an excellent album, Ten Hundred Thousand, on Bandcamp in 2012. It received little to no notice.
Still, she managed to catch the attention of Eric Gilbert, who set her up with Alefort sets in 2012 and 2013, as well an opening slot for Tater Famine back in January.
“You can’t ask everybody to care about what you’re doing,” Summerhays said before the show, “but you kind of hope that once in a while, somebody will tune in and really be interested. That’s why you do it, basically.”
This crowd sounded tuned in. Throughout her set, Summerhays’ restrained, breathy singing and spare, indelible melodies received warm applause. Her fluttery strumming and fuzzy distortion seemed to underline the turbulent emotions which her cryptic, haunting lyrics hinted at.
The second opener, Seattle musician Star Anna, can count Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready among her fans. Judging from the cheers and whistles, her plainspoken lyrics, well-worn country tunes and massive, soulful vocals earned her a few more.
“It must be easier to shine when you’re standing in a dimmer light,” she sang. That summed up the show nicely.