Thao and Mirah at the Rhythm Room, 6/20/11

Thao & Mirah 

Rhythm Room
Monday, June 20

Punctuality. Where I'm from (Miami), folks don't understand the concept that well. When doors open at 7:30, the masses show up at nine, often foregoing the opening set, and subsequently missing the opportunity to discover new music via supporting acts.

However, that's not the case in Phoenix. By the time opening act Led to Sea took the Rhythm Room stage last night shortly before 8:30, every seat had been filled, each table already occupied.

"You guys are very punctual," joked Alex Guy, Led to Sea's sole member, before a few self-congratulatory wooos escaped the crowd. She then gave the sound guy the okay head nod, lifted her viola into playing position, and began her one-woman indie folk pop concerto.

Guy's the type of artist that blows your mind. She layers her music by looping viola riffs on top of one another, adding dramatic sprinkles of staccato and finger picking to mimic the sound of a full-blown sting section.

While the musicality of Guy's performance is worth the price of admission alone, her talents reach far beyond the viola. She's also an amazing singer, a cross between Abigail Washburn and Regina Spektor, with an incredible storytelling approach to songwriting.

At one point between songs, Guy asked the crowd, "Do you guys bike in a town that's this hot?" The crowd made-up largely of folks that shop at co-ops and read Mother Jones applauded the singer's inquisitiveness -- the answer is yes, Phoenix cycles. "Good," Guy said. "This is a song about crashing my bike into a BMW."

Massachusetts-based Bobby, though plagued with sound troubles and delayed nearly 30-minutes before breaking into their dream-pop mini set, managed to keep the crowd's attention, as well as earn their respect. "Sorry about the technical shit," frontman Tom Greenberg said. "What are you gonna do?"

It would've been nice to hear more of the collective's Bjork-meets-Love is All-on the-moon type music, but to not take away from Thao and Mirah's closing set, Bobby only played three songs.

Thao, Mirah, and a backing band that included Led to Sea's Alex Guy on the fiddle took the stage at 10:30, and immediately kicked things off with "Folks."  

On some songs, Thao's lead vocalist while Mirah accompanies, and vice versa. The writing process for the self-titled Thao and Mirah record was similar. The girls would write separately, then collaborate in the studio.

Their styles are different, however complimentary. Mirah writes about nature (insects, dark skies), while Thao leans towards relationships, and all that comes with them -- sex, heartbreak, and vulnerability. Together, it's a beautiful marriage of feminism, and femininity.

Last night, Thao and Mirah shared the spotlight, neither outshining the other. In fact, the focus was immigrant rights. In an effort to raise awareness of Arizona's appalling immigration law, a one-dollar surcharge was added to last night's ticket price to benefit the Florence Project, a non-profit organization that provides legal service to men, women, and children detained by ICE.

Last night's show was beautiful for the Valley, and Rhythm Room's packed house is yet another testament to how much music means to us. Seriously, self-righteous bands, boycotting doesn't do shit. Raising money and awareness goes much further. Take it from Thao and Mirah.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Alt females dressed head-to-tattooed-toes in Urban Outfitters, and hipster dudes in plaid shirts and skinny jean shorts.

Overheard: "Check out my Etsy store."

Random: I told Alex Guy that her solo performance was one of the most beautiful musical moments I had ever witnessed, then signed up for the ol' E-mail list but forgot to write ".com" after "gmail." Oops.

Thao and Mirah Set List:
"How Dare You"
"Little Cup"
"Rubies and Rocks"
"Sugar and Plastic"
"Dogs of B.A."
"Spaced Out Orbit"
"Feet Asleep"
"We're so Sorry"