Vermont female folk outfit Mountain Man delighted a large audience at Radio Radio Saturday night with perfectly-pitched harmonies, minimal instrumentation and charming crowd banter. The trio — comprised of the college-aged Molly Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath — performed a set featuring traditional folk covers and original tracks from Made the Harbor, their 2010 debut LP.
Mountain Man’s flawless harmonies proved to be just as inspiring and stirring in person as on record. The sweet-natured “How Am I Doing,” evocative “Sewee Sewee,” and ethereal “River” stood out as the evening’s most impressive offerings from Made The Harbor. And the show felt more like an intimate conversation between friends than it did a concert.
To start the night, the trio beckoned those sitting cross-legged in front of the stage to inch a bit closer so that the band could admire their faces. Between songs Sarle, Sauser-Monnig, and Meath revealed the inspiration behind some of their songs offered anecdotes from their personal lives.
Before a beautiful version of “Honey Bee,” Meath explained that the song was written from the perspective of a grandmother, whose reluctant grandchildren finally took interest in her stories. Meath also described a wild, vivid dream from her previous night’s sleep in which she fell deeply in love with Marilyn Manson and the two walked through New York City looking for a place to live together.
Sarle confessed her desire to become a stand-up comedian and told a witty joke about a couple fighting over a blanket while on a train car. She later explained how Atlanta rapper T.I.’s sexual single “Whatever You Like” served as comedic inspiration for their sensual tune, “Soft Skin.” Sauser-Monnig, who perhaps has the group’s largest vocal range, offered a few small jokes and described the origins of “Mouthwings,” a song about the prospects of bearing a child.
Much of the group’s material is performed a cappella, save for some guitar work, which came across livelier in person than it does on Made The Harbor. Sausser-Monnig and Sarle took turns playing a warm sounding, cherry Gibson acoustic and a golden electric hollow body. At one point, Sauser-Monnig picked up the acoustic and performed an unaccompanied traditional folk cover. Both Meath and Sarle knelt down on stage and swayed along to the melody looking up to Sauser-Monnig in admiration.
“Dog Song,” the first song they wrote together, closed out the set proper, after which Mountain Man returned for an encore performed without amplification.
Louisville singer-songwriter Cheyenne Marie Mize opened the show with an impressive solo set of dreamy folk and minor blues originals. A talented instrumentalist, Mize presented her love songs with looping guitar and violin licks, and finished her set with a remarkable new song in which she only played a single floor tom. But missing from her performance was a backing band. Unlike Mountain Man, Mize would seem to need additional instrumental support for her songs to really click.