As the doors opened for Thao and Mirah's performance Thursday night, dark clouds were rolling in over the city, setting up a scene more appropriate for
than for a performance by two indie-rock darlings.
But in the basement of Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church, even as people stumbled in sopping wet from the storm, the stage was set for an enjoyable evening of heartfelt indie-rock and folk tunes - even the notorious heat and humidity of the church abated.
Thao Nguyen and Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn both have successful solo careers, with Nguyen performing quirky and raucous rock tunes as Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and Zeitlyn singing lo-fi indie rock as Mirah. When the two toured together last summer, they found that their musical styles were complementary, and subsequently decided to collaborate and release an album. Titled Thao and Mirah, the album came out in April and the collection of tunes proved to be well-suited for the live stage.
Thao is a raw and bombastic performer, while Mirah has a strong, guileless voice befitting her emotional and introspective tunes. Their performance Thursday night was a delicate blend of both performers' sensibilities: more sedate than a typical Thao and the Get Down Stay Down concert, but more upbeat and vivacious than a Mirah show. Along with three backing musicians (one of whom opened the bill as Led to Sea, performing live-looping solo viola tunes), Thao and Mirah went through nearly the entire album, throwing in some of their solo work for good measure and frequently singing each other's material.
Some songs were performed as duets - the edgy call-and-response of "How Dare You," for example - but many songs were primarily sung by just one artist, with the other performer singing or playing backup. The constantly shifting vocal duties kept the performance lively, and the affable banter lent a feeling of intimacy to the night. Mirah's sultry vocals on "Rubies and Rocks," Thao's defiant and twangy sing-along "Squareneck," and the quirky dance track "Eleven" were all crowd-pleasers.
A two-song encore of material from each artist's solo catalog - Mirah's "Telephone Wires" and Thao's rowdy "Bag of Hammers" - rounded out the evening.