Published Sep 09, 2019With its high ceilings, brass railings and cream walls, on which complex golden patterns lay, and in which over a century of history lives, the Mae Wilson Theatre felt dense with seriousness. Or at least it did until Megan Nash walked onstage and sang, "Hello Mooooose Jawwww," and then said "Okay, okay, okay, okay" into her mic, her manner not unlike that of a screwball comic facetiously affecting nervousness.
Introductions dispensed with, Nash and her band waded into their first song, a delicate alt-rock number flavoured by sputtering, country-ish percussion. Like many of their songs, the soft, sweet instrumentation felt like a foil for Nash's remarkable voice, which sometimes resides alongside the guitars, and other times rises and howls above them.
Between songs, Nash told stories with frenetic, stammering intelligence. She described her grandpa, who salted his beer and salted salamanders until they shrivelled, then spray-painted these salamanders gold, put magnets on these salted, spray-painted, golden salamanders and stuck them to his fridge. "It was Moose Jaw in the '90s, okay — it was a different time," Nash quipped.
Although she was a comfortable goofball, full of jokes and quirks, Nash's music was earnest and moving. In "Salted Salamanders," Nash sang, along with her sister Jenna, "Without your life I would have never learned to whistle / Without your death I would have never found to sing."
Later, Nash said, "This next song's for all the scorpios in the building," and laughed and groaned at herself; she played a stripped version of "Hurt People Hurt," a song as melancholic as its title, which ended with her euphonically wheezing over a single guitar, "I was barely breathing those days." This tension — between humorous, ecstatic digression and sincere, restrained performance — resulted in a funny, poignant, thoroughly entertaining set.
Near the end of it, Nash brought out Scotch & Water, the night's opening act, to help create a fuller, more orchestral sound for the set's finale. After their collective cover of Feist's "1234" closed, the musicians joined hands and bowed at the crowd. As they walked off the stage, the Mae Wilson still felt serious; Nash's reminder that seriousness does not preclude goofiness, did, however, seem to lighten its air.