Speak in Tongues
A packed Speak in Tongues on a Tuesday night with a $7 ticket is not a common occurrence, but the Rachel's are anything but common. They're not a rock band, but they play mostly in rock clubs. They're a chamber music ensemble, but they never play in concert halls. The whole show took place without any cheap visual stunts, but the audience was fully captivated throughout. Performing what essentially could be classified as a mix of early romantic-era chamber music with a bit of new age, the Rachel's were somehow able to appeal to an audience of tragically hip underground music listeners.
The current Rachel's lineup -- viola player Christian Fredericksen, pianist Rachel Grimes, and cellist Eve Miller -- practically performed in the round, with audience members sitting cross-legged on the floor as the trio played each of the songs (in order) on its 1996 release, Music for Egon Schiele, an album written for a theatrical dance production based on the life of the Austrian painter, with expressive care for every note. The group paused only twice to self-consciously banter with the audience. Particular highlights included "Mime Van Osen," a track that was dedicated to Schiele's relationship with Erwin Van Osen, a fellow member of the Viennese underground, and "Second Family Portrait."
Though the Rachel's set offered little in the way of visual stimulation, more than enough was provided by opener Shannon Wright, who presented a set of self-absorbed songs that was impossible to take seriously. With lyrics that went something like "It's inside my head/It plummets my bed" and a keyboard hooked up to a "music visualizer" that lit up to accompany her songs, Wright came off more like an artless entertainer than a talented singer-songwriter. The fact that she positioned one bright red light to cast a 12-foot dancing shadow of her on the wall didn't help either.