Grace Woodroofe’s set at Mercury Lounge proved she was a singer who can hold an audience’s attention without trying too hard. That’s not to say she didn’t put all of herself into her performance, but what came out seemed completely natural and honest. Her voice was what carried the show. The lyrics were personal and emotionally charged, but her delivery was really what made the performance hard to turn away from. And if it gets to be too much, and you should feel inclined to close your eyes, she gets you in a whole new way there as well – even when you can’t see her eyes squeezed shut, you feel it all the same.
Her voice is deep and smoky, sometimes wispy and sometimes powerful. She can be soft and soulful on the down tempo songs, but then bellow and growl when she gets worked up on the more rocking numbers. These songs, for the most part, were saved towards the end of the set. She played singles “Battles” and “I've Handled Myself Wrong,” early on, and then worked up to busting out songs like “Bear” and closed with her bluesy cover of The Stooges’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The latter of which was one of the more interesting covers I’ve heard in a while, and did what a cover should: do the original justice while making it her own. To quote another Iggy song, Grace Woodroofe has raw power.
Opening for Grace was fellow Aussies Husky. I did find it interesting that Grace Woodroofe’s vocals have been widely described as “husky,” and then she gets a band of that name on the same bill. Alas, it is merely a coincidence, as the band is named after songwriter Husky Gawenda, whose voice is actually the opposite of that descriptor. Gawenda’s voice is smooth like a lullaby, and Husky’s songs are the perfect soundtrack to traveling down a dusty road on a lazy summer day.
For the most part, their sound is subtle finger-picked guitars and rolling along lyrics. Every once in a while the keyboard part really peaks out, adding some well-placed flair to their otherwise woozy arrangements. Overall, their set was nothing too remarkable, and maybe that was the most remarkable thing. They are good, but their songs are so subtle that the musicianship is easy to overlook because you’re drifting off in a daydream. When they played a song that was based off a recurring dream Gawenda has, I can’t tell you what his dream was about but I can tell you that it made me think of dreaming. The way the whole band played with their eyes closed showed that maybe they were all dreaming too; the same musical dream.
This was Husky’s last show date with Grace Woodroofe, but they have plenty more dates spread across a few continents. They come back to the States later in the summer, supporting The Head and the Heart. Check out all their dates on their tour page. Grace has a handful more dates in the US, ending with a residency in Los Angeles, CA. More details can be found on her website.
Photos (c) Kelly Knapp