I must confess that when I first saw Mountain Man at MASS MoCA’s Solid Sound Festival in August, I wasn’t all that impressed. Maybe it was the outdoor, mid-afternoon setting. Maybe it was the overload of great music throughout the fest. Maybe I was just too tired to slow down and absorb their delicate sound.
Whatever it was, back then I caught two or three songs – performed with a single guitar accompaniment – and moved on to the next band at the fest.
Fortunately, I got another chance on Friday night when they performed as part of the Riot Grrrl Weekend at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. And it was a revelation.
Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Molly Erin Sarle and Amelia Randall Meath are Mountain Man – three young women from Bennington College who sing intricate and haunting a cappella songs, most of them stunning originals.
Somewhat reminiscent of the early Roches, their vocal harmonies are exquisite, and their performance was thoroughly endearing. Drawing the bulk of their concert from their debut album, “Made the Harbor,” they offered country (“How’m I Doin'”), traditional folk (“Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies”) and even a bit of pop-inflection (“Play It Right”).
The hymn-like “Loon Song” was paired with the foot-stomping “River,” and they even got the near-capacity crowd to sing along with them in rounds for the old scouts campfire song “Rose Rose Rose Red.”
Author Sara Marcus kicked off the evening, not only reading selections from her new book, “Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution,” also discussing the book in an interview with rock writer Will Hermes and then engaging the audience in a Q&A session.
And while the a cappella sound of Mountain Man might not seem to have an obvious connection with the Riot Grrrl movement that spawned such feminist proto-punk bands Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, don’t be so sure about that.
As Mountain Man’s Amelia Randall Meath declared in the midst of their set, “Just because it doesn’t sound like punk rock doesn’t mean that it isn’t.”
BONUS TRIVIA: Mountain Man, what are you listening to?
Alexandra: Fleetwood Mac
Molly: Kate Bush
Amelia: Old Cajun music… and Fleetwood Mac, always Fleetwood Mac
MOUNTAIN MEN SET LIST
How’m I Doin’
Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies (traditional)
Rose, Rose, Rose Red
Play it Right (?)
The Earth Has No Skin (Jana Hunter)