Festival of Voices: Erin Markey at Voicebox

The below was written for and published by Aphra Magazine:

I feel a grin starting to form on my face.  Slowly but surely, my mouth confirms what my mind is thinking, this is certainly a worthy start to my experience of this year’s Festival of Voices.

On stage is Erin Markey who can be described as Amazonian in stature, physically and vocally.  My ears attempt to process the sounds that I am hearing.  Is it another dialect, or another language altogether?  I’m pretty sure I heard a dog’s howl in there somewhere, or it could have been the call of a wildebeest.

Erin has skulked onto the stage at Voicebox and delivered an opening of animalistic, guttural raw vocal energy.  I sit back and get ready to enjoy the ride.

What begins as raw sound soon turns into a story of raw emotion, what little can be seen of the candle-lit faces of those that have gathered with me to watch this performance confirm that just like myself, everyone in the room is captivated.

From where I sit I can see the venue in its entirety; Erin with her piano man Kenny on stage, the intimate tables lit by candlelight in classic cabaret style which separate the stage and an elevated platform for standing room.  Above the standing room hangs a full moon which illuminates the back of the venue.  Erin has been performing under this moonlight and leading us on an anecdotal journey of the struggles of self-identity, reinvention and spiritual awakening.  Under the moon and the soft red glow of the venue lighting Erin looks almost alien-like as she contorts her voice and body to give the most emotional interpretation of Jewel’s Foolish Games I have ever heard.

Acutely aware of the impact she has had on her audience, Erin whimsically asks the audience if they are now ready to get personal, which both calms the mood and draws us in for another journey through Erin’s world of father (and mother) issues, the gay marriage debate and the dysfunctional family unit.

Erin again knows how powerful her material is, she knows that whilst captivated the audience is feeling somewhat uncomfortable as well.  This is one of those experiences that you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what you are going to hear and you don’t know how it is going to make you feel.  It’s at this moment that we learn Erin’s ear popped after forty hours of travel mid-way through her last song and she didn’t until that moment realise just how loud she was.

With that confession she has us again.  We are again comfortable and ready to be led further through the dark material that is resonating in some way with each and every person in the room.  Whether you have struggled with family relationships, sexuality, self-confidence or physical appearance, Erin has touched each of us.  She sings to us, borrowing words from a green trashcan monster, that everyone is in some-way dirty, dingy or dusty.  Erin loves them all because they are trash, not in spite of it.

Erin looks into the artificial moonlight and exclaims that it is the biggest fake moon that she has ever seen and what a metaphor that was for the blurring of distance between reality and fiction.  It makes me wonder, am I sitting here watching a fictitious performance that borders too closely to reality for Erin, or is this Erin’s reality that we all take for granted as a fictitious performance piece?

Either way, Erin strikes a chord in my heart when as her final song she sings a haunting rendition of I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie which transports me back in time to my own darkness and self-discovery.

I’m not sure whether I can say that I connected with the pain or emotion in every one of the musical manifestations that Erin delivered; I can say that I followed Erin into the dark and I have just been part of something powerful.

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