By Emily Davis
Red Molly, a folk trio who played at the Alberta Rose Theatre on Oct. 8, brought the ever-resonating style of Americana music to Portland for a spectacular show. The intimacy of the theater and the relationship between the musicians and their fans created an amazing atmosphere.
Upon entering the Alberta Rose, I was struck by two things that I had not been expecting: a completely seated venue and a largely older crowd. I’m not talking older than your average college student; I’m saying I was the youngest person there by 20 years. But damn, were they a lively crowd. As I took my seat, an older gentleman behind me asked me if I had ever seen Red Molly play before. Upon learning I hadn’t, he told me they “have the voice of angels.”
He was right. The trio walked on stage, greeted the crowd and dove right into their set. While I wasn’t very familiar with them before attending their show, I am a big fan of folk and bluegrass music. The trio, comprised of Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Molly Venter, had amazing voices and the soul to back up a small, profound show. The three women were front and center, with MacAllister on bass, Venter on guitar and Gardner on a Dobro lap steel guitar.
After playing their third song of the evening, a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” they asked the crowd how many had seen them before. Hands went flying up. A notable part of their performance was the banter between the performers and the fans, known endearingly as “Redheads.” They interacted like they were all a group of friends who get together every year to catch up with one another.
After a two year hiatus, Red Molly is back with a 2017/18 tour promoting their new album “All For One & One for All” and giving the crowd a preview of each member’s forthcoming solo albums. Venter’s song was about her newborn son, a slow smooth song relating the joy and pain of motherhood. Venter’s strong and heavy voice, coupled with her vocal range, made her stand out from the other members. MacAllister went next and sang her song “Vertigo,” which was about love and the fear of opening up to someone only to be hurt. MacAllister has a slightly softer voice, and can hit high notes well. Gardner described her new album as “bluegrass without as much grass” and sang a beautiful rendition of Claire Lynch’s “Once the Teardrops Start to Fall,” which she covers on her solo album.
They each played their instruments for most of the show, occasionally adding good ol’ foot stomping and tambourines to the mix. They were backed up by Eben Pariser on guitar and drums and Craig Akin on the double bass, both of whom are members of the Brooklyn-based band Roosevelt Dime. Akin was 100 percent the hype-man of the evening. He seemed like a big fan of the ladies of Red Molly and was easily the person most moved by the music.
After intermission, the ladies came back out and played “Weeping Willow” which, if you want to know what Red Molly is by listening to a single song, is the one to hear. A combination of country, folk and bluegrass creates the beautiful Americana sound they are known for. After each playing another song off their solo records, Red Molly played the entirety of their forthcoming album, which consists of six songs. It is worth noting that their solo acts were different from one another, each having their own style and flare that was personal to the performer. However, that’s what makes Red Molly’s music so amazing: they all skillfully combine their personal tastes to create an eclectic style that moves the soul of the audience. And move them they did: Red Molly, upon concluding their show, received a standing ovation from the entire crowd.