Friday, July 16, 2010

Some Things are Better as Unfulfilled Desires

Location: Calhoun Isles, Minneapolis, MN, USA

This is Roma di Luna--or fewer than half of them, actually. Rebecca has been looking forward to seeing them perform for a long time (that is, for a long time, Rebecca's been looking forward to &c.), and she was super excited to see they were on the roster for the Bryant Square Ice Cream Social, Weds. afternoon. That's right in our neighborhood, a short walk away! What a fortuitous opportunity to see such a long-anticipated event! She went and got a (very cute) haircut and we met at the park, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the music.

Unfortunately, this is what they looked like. They did not engage with the audience at all: the guys on drums and guitar looked at their own instruments and they looked at the ground around them but never at the tiered half-circle of people listening to them. The lead singer, named Channy, actually closed her eyes during almost the entire performance. Her eyes were closed while she sang, and her eyes were closed when she announced the songs. It's like she wasn't actually performing for people so much as reciting, for the thousandth time, a Latin Mass for herself and other people were tolerated to observe. (She did open her eyes to talk to the dude playing guitar. Once.)

Channy sounds like the singers from the Sundays and the Cranberries. When you listen to Ani DiFranco, Billie Holiday, or Ella Fitzgerald, you think, Wow, I've never heard that before. Not so, here: you lose several minutes to recalling all the other singers she reminds you of. Their website describes her singing as "the hauntingly-powerful voice of Channy Moon Casselle." As an editor, not only do I have to question the word choice of juxtaposing haunting with powerful, but I also must insist that hyphen be removed. It would've been less contentious to say, "If you remember liking Harriet Wheeler and Dolores O'Riordan, you'll find familiar things to like about Channy."

Oh yes, I know this review won't be very popular. Roma di Luna is such a romantic-sounding name, and they're all local-hero-ish in the music scene, but I've seen them two times in as many years and they haven't made a favorable impression with me. Some people like a band because they're really good and give a great performance, and other people like a band because of the hype and pretension constructed around them. From what I've seen of this band, their fans seem to fall in the latter encampment. They can pack a room, no argument, but I'm left standing in the back wondering what the big deal is.

We walked in on their set as one song was finishing up. We'd just gotten a couple ice cream cones, which were melting quickly, and we sat down on the grass to enjoy the performance. After a minute of conference with the band, the singer shut her eyes tight and announced they had intended to play "Stand By Me" but... she didn't actually know the words. (Rebecca did and started to sing them; they didn't pick up on her cue.) Instead, they played a "traditional" song called "Queen of Hearts," and rather than the perky Juice Newton single, it was a laborious and depressing dirge played with fiddle. On a bright summer day, with people sitting in a park having ice cream and playing with small children, they thought a slow, mournful, minor-key lament would be an appropriate selection to perform in their playlist.

I looked over at Rebecca. Her shoulders had slumped and her expression was heartbreaking. "Let's get out of here," she murmured, "I've had enough."

Roma di Luna, ladies and gentlemen!

No comments: