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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Live Show Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield

Photos by: Alyssa De Hayes

Jessica Lea Mayfield is heartbroken and the proof is in the lyrics. The Kent, Ohio native, who was discovered by the Black Keys vocalist Dan Auerbach, seems to have the perfect outlet for her anti-love sentiment through strumming an acoustic with her brother David Mayfield at her side, who handles the stand-up bass like a professional baton twirler, but that’s all a part of the wonderful stage presence of Mayfield and her band. Donning an oversized plaid button-up shirt and black, holey leggings, the 19-year-old songstress breathed life into a rather small, but by no means unenthusiastic crowd. Yes, her music is very relaxed, to say the least. And the first couple of songs only brought a few of the audience members rushing to the stage, but this was just her warm up. With the help of an electric blonde drummer with her own rhythmic way of beating the drums and a lead guitarist whose animated facial expressions and tan cowboy hat fit right in with the periodic country twang in several tracks, the band in its entirety knew how to put on an entertaining and mystifying performance.


Several times throughout the show, the band would disappear backstage, leaving Jessica onstage with just her acoustic. Without the distractions of each band member’s unique presence, the audience was able to really focus in on the absolute stripped emotion that is at the core of Mayfield’s vocal abilities. Something I found quite surprising since she isn’t even old enough to drink alcohol. (I noticed the red underage stamp on her hand and had to laugh). This being said, one of the highlights of the show came from one of these solo ventures. After a loud shout of “Holy shit!” from one of the blatantly intoxicated female audience members, Mayfield began a single note guitar plucking that was followed by the lyrics, (I didn’t mean to fuel the fire/Now I’m alone watching flames go higher). It was another song of scorned love, but what was most notable wasn’t the guitar or the lyrics, but simply Mayfield’s low, mournful vocals that sent chills through a rather warm night in Athens. Another notable performance was Mayfield’s cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” which is featured on a Starbucks compilation c.d. entitled Sweetheart. Towards the end of the set list, the band decided to break out of their shells and turn up the adrenaline as everyone moved across the stage, with instruments in hand, and rocked out like we just stepped into Black Lips concert. David Mayfield dropped to the floor and lifted the standing-bass with his feet and played, while Jessica Mayfield fell to her knees and ripped on her acoustic. To top it all off, the brother and sister duo broke out some tricks that were hidden up their sleeves as David kneeled down while playing his bass and Jessica stepped on top of the instrument while playing her guitar. It was a fun and somewhat unexpected way to end Jessica Lea Mayfield’s folk/country/rock concert. Now do you remember that rather small audience standing in front of the stage that I mentioned earlier? Let’s just say, by the end, nobody was sitting in a seat because they had all flocked to the edge of the stage. Overall, Jessica Lea Mayfield brought Athens a healthy dose of moody folk/country rock and she gave us what was expected, and better yet, a little of the unexpected.

- Jessica Cole

Currently Listening to: "Watching the Detectives" by Elvis Costello from the album My Aim Is True

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