Margaret Glaspy is not a glam girl. She wears no (visible) makeup, her chestnut brown hair down, smoothed and combed, sports a simple black spaghetti strap jumpsuit and thick-strapped black sandals that someone’s mom probably wore in the ‘70s. No jewelry. Her shiniest accessory is the smile and the obvious joy she feels from being on stage.
Glaspy, a singer-songwriter originally from Red Bluff, California, took the stage on Monday, Sept. 19 at The Back Room at Colectivo, located on Prospect Avenue on Milwaukee’s Eastside.
Walking into this venue is like going to a McDonald’s and finding out they have a playroom out back. The frontside is all coffee, studying and gossip while the backside is a bar, stage, elegant lights and a definitive artsy vibe. The space is surprisingly big and has a charming feel with lots of fake plants and vines dangling. The ceiling is strung with sets of globe string lights, and people are lightly conversing, sipping on pale ales and wine.
First to take the stage is a band called Bad Bad Hats from Minneapolis, Minnesota. On Spotify, you can find two playlists crafted by the band under their page, one entitled Wubba lubba dub-dub, a nod to the animated comedy show “Rick and Morty,” and the other entitled I Will Go Out if It Kills Me with subtext that reads “Pump-up jams for the sociable loner.” Needless to say, they have got a lot of spunk. The band is composed of three people, which they list on their website as the following: Kerry Alexander (vocals, guitar, wisdom), Chris Hoge (drums, courage) and Noah Boswell (bass, power).
They play a melodic indie sort of tune, and their stage presence is silly. Alexander makes fun of her own love songs and love experiences. She spends a perfectly awkward amount of time telling her own elaborate summary of the favorite flick “A Walk to Remember,” poking fun at ideas of romance but then proceeding to sing about her own romances.
The music was easy to listen to, the lyrics made me smile, and their way of storytelling and interacting with the audience was crowd pleasing and effortlessly enjoyed.
When Glaspy hits her first note, you can’t help but smile. Her voice is a unique, raspy one, almost old-timey, and her lyrics are striking. “I’m a woman that’s acting like a kid,” she writes in track one on her album “Emotions and Math.” When she sings, she wears a face of tranquility, but her voice reveals her acute awareness of her emotions. She’s in full command of them, as if her and her emotions conversed about their mutual less-than-spectacular life experiences and wrote these lyrics as a result. Her versatility is admirable, and her lyrics are a breakthrough of truth in a genre of fragile expectations.
Many of her songs are about love experiences, but not in the sense of predictable, radio-pop-ballad love. Instead, she talks about avoiding ending a relationship you’ve known wasn’t going to work from the start or how it feels to be an independent person who suddenly finds themselves needing someone.
She sings about being the heartbreaker as much as she sings of the heartbreak, and the lyrics seem applicable to everyday as much as they would to a relationship. Within all this she somehow avoids being cheesy, perhaps, because her lyrics seem to nail down the human condition so succinctly, like you didn’t know what you had been trying to say until she said it.
Lyrically, she also plays with ideas of being in the right and of being in the wrong. “Ahh tonight I’m a little too turned on to talk about us, and tomorrow, I’ll be too turned off and won’t give a f***,” she sings on the track “You and I,” also off of “Emotions and Math.” She nears the end of the set, holding the last word of the last song and repeating it to the audience as if she knows we don’t want it to end, and she’s just teasing us. She effortlessly demonstrates a mastering of her vocals, and it’s so sweet you could tear up, and maybe I did, but then it’s over.
If you like female vocalists with personality, spunk, good hearts and engaging, fresh lyrics, I would suggest giving both Margaret Glaspy and Bad Bad Hats a listen.