Photo by DYLAN LONG
Nandi Rose Plunkett produces solo music under the moniker Half Waif, a name that conjures the idea of a small and helpless creature – but the singer-songwriter is anything but. Plunkett towered over a synthesizer in a red dress patterned with rose petals and hair in space buns. With her eyes closed and hands joined in prayer, I half-expected her to levitate above the stage. The set drew from her latest release, Lavender, an work punctuated with intimate portraits of human life, touching on themes of family, love and mortality. The lyrics read like poetic fairy tales, and Plunkett’s voice has the power to reach straight through your chest and withdraw precious organs. Her closer was a brand new song called “Capsule.” “I’m really nervous to play this but sometimes it feels good to be vulnerable,” she admitted, adding, “Its kind of a quiet one.”
By the intermission, the basement floor of First Unitarian Church was blanketed with shed winter coats, the room growing thick with the smell of sweat and beer. (Sandy) Alex G took the stage while “Life Is A Highway” blasted at full volume, evoking nostalgic grins from the crowd of 20-somethings. The band (who were dressed like high school English teachers in crisp button-up shirts) is led by Alexander Giannascoli. The lead singer/guitarist has been a fixture of the Philadelphia DIY music scene since he was a college kid self-releasing tracks on Bandcamp. Giannascoli was intense to watch, singing through gritted teeth, the muscles in his neck taut.
The set was composed mostly of songs from 2017’s Rocket, an album that fuses lo-fi indie pop and folk, weaving harmonies of twanging fiddle and crunchy electric guitar. Half Waif reappeared for a duet on “Bobby,” her voice soothing and melodious. Giannascoli took to the keys for “Horse” and “Brick,” rocking back and forth and screaming hellishly into the mic while chaotic instrumentals crashed around him. The band hit favorites like “Mary” and “Proud,” closing with the dreamy, regret-filled “Sarah,” Giannascoli shouting, “I can’t be what you need.” — MARIAH HALL