When reviewing live music, one can only hope that a performance will either be excellent, good enough to write about, or terrible. In any of these three scenarios, there is usually an abundance of things that a writer can point to as being responsible for the quality of a show.
However, when a performance is so overwhelmingly mediocre that you are basically scraping for words to describe it, it makes for a frustrating challenge that can cause problems for even the most seasoned of journalists. This particular conundrum came to me in the form of Twin Sister’s performance at the Mohawk, perhaps one of the most unmemorable outings I’ve seen in some time. While the group’s set was far from abysmal, it also leaves one pressed for ways to describe it beyond “average” or “just ok”.
It’s a shame, really, because Twin Sister’s recorded material showed immense promise for translating to a live setting. Their intricate blend of dream pop hooks and arty sensibilities quickly established them as blog and critical darlings, at least for a while. However, most of the eccentrics and nuances that give their songs both personality and life were all but absent from their Mohawk performance. Instead, there was a very by-the-numbers feel to their entire set.
Fan favorites like “All Around and Away We Go” and “Daniel” were devoid of many of the characteristics that made them so appealing in the first place, and singer Andrea Estella was content to just stand around with the mic for the majority of the performance. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the way the group sounded, there was also nothing that made them stand out, especially compared to the surprisingly impassioned and quality performance given by opening group Ava Luna.
To make matters worse, it was not hard to tell that a good portion of the people in attendance also felt merely lukewarm about Twin Sister’s performance. While the tiny indoor space of the Mohawk was jam packed for the first four or five songs, many began to wander off to the bar area or just came and went at will throughout the rest of the band’s set. This sort of inability for the group to keep the audience’s attention for a full hour only heightened the feelings of underwhelmed disappointment, and the fact that they ended their set with about five minutes of instrumental noodling didn’t help either.
If people were leaving or getting distracted because the band sounded terrible or gave an uninspired performance, it would have been one thing. However, it was not a ghastly performance by any stretch of the imagination, making the anticlimactic feel that permeated their set all the more upsetting. Twin Sister is a talented and smart collective of musicians, but their set at the Mohawk showed that they still have a long way to go before they can enter the realm of “captivating live act”.