Last night at the Firebird, Laura Burhenn's musical collective, named after these exotic birds, brought a much needed cool breeze to our hot, hot city. And mimicking? None that I could see. The Mynabirds' set was as original as a raindrop and just as welcome on a hot Sunday night.
Touring in support of their sophomore release, "GENERALS," the group brought a wide range of sounds to close out a crowded bill at the Firebird. Backed by guitar, bass and drums and side by side with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Marie Miller, the Mynabirds, through Laura Burhenn, thanked the crowd repeatedly for coming out in support of their first show here in St. Louis.
"GENERALS" follows the 2010 debut, "What We Lose In the Fire We Gain In the Flood." They played songs from both, including the crowd favorite "Numbers Don't Lie," a ballad of sorts from the 2010 release. It was just one example of the skilled musicianship the quintet brought to the stage, and it sounded like a throwback to a more innocent time, a love song that could be sent up to someone's bedroom window with the hope it has the power to awaken.
Also from the debut record, they played "Let the Record Go," a bouncy tune with lots of oohs and woos supplied by Rebecca and Laura. Sometimes this type of vocalization clearly masks the need to fill silence with noise, but every sound had a purpose here; this was not vocal showboating.
Seeing Laura and Rebecca on stage is like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Laura cuts a tall, waif-ish figure, clad in white with flowing sleeves and, at times, a fox hat covering her blonde hair. Rebecca, on the other hand, donned a jet black mini dress, her face framed with dark bangs above eyes that seemed to know the punch line of the joke before you even thought to tell it. While it was certainly intriguing to hear their voices play off of one another during their set, it was just as entertaining to watch them together.
Rebecca adds more than a voice, however. She had before her a drum machine, which punctuated and enhanced the traditional drum kit behind her. Her bag of tricks included chimes, sticks, bells and I think there may even have been a trumpet somewhere in there. As a compliment, or maybe a contrast, Laura used her voice and a keyboard to draw the crowd in. At one point, Laura walked close to the edge of the stage and the crowd pulled in towards her like metal filings to a magnet. She clearly loves performing and thanked the crowd profusely for allowing her to entertain them on a Sunday night. She also gave a nice shout out to St. Louis' support for the arts, endearing her to the already adoring fans.
There were songs which tended toward the darker side, and songs like "Radiator Sisters," from the new release, which were lighter and more buoyant. The vocalization and accompanying instrumental touches instantly reminded me of the sound of water climbing through the radiator in an old apartment of mine. The pings and pangs got louder as the steam found its way to me. I'm certain the song was not about a radiator but I'll never forget hearing it.
In the second song, Laura told us she "don't do much these days / keep the wolves at bay." Nobody in the audience seemed to care what exactly she did as long as she kept singing. As if she somehow knew that, she reassured us all, "If you forget the words, I will sing them for you." And we'll all sing along, or at least try.