How do you fill SOhO on a Tuesday night in the middle of May? One good bet is to book a local gem with a broad fan base who doesn’t play often in town. One great bet is to book singer/songwriter Khasy (Mama Khas) Modisette.
If you read the club’s calendar prior to arriving, it looked like a bunch of people were playing. And while three acts did go on, it was obvious that everyone was there to see Modisette – as the behavior of the sizable crowd made quite clear. Folks ate and chatted through Aaron Beavers’ (of Shurman) set despite his energetic guitar work and practically enlightened, anti-narcissist lyrics.
The room hushed and everyone swiveled in their seats, though, when Modisette and her husband, Nate, took the stage. Even the barflies came in and stood in the back, transfixed. Modisette occupied the spotlight, singing her own songs with two exceptions; Elton John’s “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” and Rose Polenzani’s “Or.” All of the material showcased Modisette’s vocal range and her ability to swoop from one end of the sonic spectrum to the other, as well as her emotional intensity. (She slid into a growl more than once.) The show was raw, as only live music can be. Modisette had the courage to play a highly challenging song she had written the week before – and on someone else’s guitar to boot. But the show was also utterly professional. How often do you see a lead singer survive getting flashed by a five-year-old with aplomb?
Nate Modisette, deep in his own efforts, hung out off to the side, accompanying his wife with vocals, guitar, mandolin, and bass in such a way that he was hardly noticed, though the pair sounded heavenly together. Mark Renk (of You Are I Am fame) followed, playing to a mostly empty house. Partway through his set, the Modisettes got up to play several songs with him, including “Sympathy for the Devil,” during which Khasy demonstrated her ability to make even a “woohooo” come out sounding wild.