The Many Sides of Jessica Lea Mayfield

April 28th, 2014

Jessica Lea Mayfield – Rough Trade NYC – April 26, 2014

It was a tale of multiple guitars as Jessica Lea Mayfield rocked a full Rough Trade NYC on Saturday night. Musicians often switch guitars throughout a set with no discernible differences among them. But Mayfield seemed to take on different musical personalities each time she changed instruments. Working largely off her brand new release, Make My Head Sing…, Mayfield—sporting an outfit that was equally incongruous to the set: red plaid halter top, black skirt, sparking tights, boots and glam glitter makeup—was backed by a bassist (her husband, Jesse Newport) and a drummer (Matt Martin).

Handling a sparkly pink 12-string guitar, Mayfield opened with “Do I Have the Time,” the light, ethereal sound of the instrument contrasting nicely with the heavy-duty bass-drum combo. She stuck with the guitar for the first few songs, including the highlight, “Standing in the Sun,” with Martin using large mallets on the drums matching a pretty riff on the 12-string. Then Mayfield switched to an equally sparkly but black guitar and things turned heavier, becoming an almost-grunge sound. Here the highlight was “I Wanna Love You” with a nice, short solo from Mayfield.

But the strongest portion of the show featured her on a big white guitar decorated like a middle-schooler’s folder complete with sparkly stickers. Throughout the set, each guitar seemed to shine a different light on Mayfield’s voice, alternating among a country-rock grit, a more modern drone and then, with this beautifully toned guitar, a prettier, soulful lilt. “Sometimes at Night,” from her 2011 release, Tell Me, stood out, with Mayfield singing, “Sometimes at night, bodies collide….” For the end of the set she returned to the black guitar—although it might have been a different one, as it was heavily distorted—with a lot of quick little classic-rock-esque riffs, and Newport dominating the sound on bass. The show concluded in this fashion with “No Fun” and a healthy dose of quick guitar shredding. The encore featured Mayfield making beautiful music with that white guitar on “Seein* Starz” and Newport moving to an acoustic to make things even prettier. —A. Stein

(Jessica Lea Mayfield plays Mercury Lounge tonight.)