Material: If you spent your formative years on alt-rock acts like Morphine and the White Stripes, there’s a chance you’ve already experienced Boston-based power act Mr. Airplane Man. After a solid stint of touring and recording in the late ‘90s, this female duo took a break to pursue other interests and start families. Now they’re back, currently on a mini-tour with their unique brand of blues- infused guitar rock.
Musicianship: After shaking off some sound issues with the venue’s PA system, the band quickly found their groove. The ‘90s influence in Mr. Airplane Man’s setlist was not hard to find, particularly early on with the Breeders- like “Not Livin’ at All,” but they are certainly not a one-trick pony. At times conjuring up garage-rock tracks reminiscent of another powerful duo, the Black Keys, and others a more ethereal, dream-pop style of Warpaint, Garrett and McManus navigated these varying styles effortlessly.
Performance: Despite the quite jarring juxtaposition of having to follow a piercingly loud, thrash-punk trio (which likely had a lot to do with initial sound issues), Mr. Airplane Man settled into their set as the crowd trickled back in to fill the room.
Despite the potential musical limitations of performing as a duo, Garrett’s guitar work allows the band to defy genres and identities by effortlessly transitioning from a jangly indie rock vibe to a Delta blues-inspired track like “Blue as I Can Be.” Drummer McManus was given the opportunity to shine on the percussion-heavy NIN-influenced set closer, “C’mon DJ.”
Summary: While certainly not perfect, whether from venue limitations or these obviously talented music vets shaking off a decade-plus of rust, Mr. Airplane Man put on an incredibly entertaining and engaging show. With a sound that is equal parts familiar and wholly unique, this duo has a way of creating a bit of nostalgia while defying typical genre labels. With their musical versatility and unique approach, there’s certainly an opportunity for them to ease back into the market and potentially surpass their early success.
The Players: Margaret Garrett, guitar, vocals; Tara McManus, drums, vocals.
Photo by Grant Stoner
Venue: Cafe NELA
City: Los Angeles, CA
Mr. Airplane Man - "Shake It Out"
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