Material: Alfa is a singer/songwriter who is self-described as indie folk pop, with lyrics that have a lonely hearts club vibe. Her encore number “Home to Me” is reminiscent of ABBA’s bittersweet “Slipping Through My Fingers.”
Another song of note is “God Writes Happy Endings,” where Liang joins in with lovely harmonizing. Then there is “Isabelle,” which sounds like a pay homage to Edith Piaf based around a sauteuse rhythm with a story: “Often I’d find her asleep in the garden/The one-eyed cat slept by her feet/Then in a moment she’d rise and the old woman watched the sun…I can hear your lullabye/Cherie toujours je t’aime…”
Musicianship: Violins are a novelty in live sets and often a bit rusty in timbre. Alfa, however, produces a clear and clean tone and proves to be a proficient multi-instrumentalist. Carlson, too, shifts between acoustic and electric guitar, adding delicate vibrato accents for both surf rock and pedal steel tones. Jimenez switches between a percussion setup of cajon and double live shakers and mostly brush work for his drum kit. When Underhill transitions between electric bass and uke bass, a surprised audience member incredulously quips, “That bass sound is coming out of him!” The instrument selections here are perfect for the musical styles.
Performance: Alfa has an extremely soulful singing voice. She excels at keeping her audience, engaged following the singer/songwriter format of brief anecdotes and requests of audience participation. What is commendable here is that despite standing-room-only, the band overrides the sound of the patrons, commands attention and keeps its sound from blowing out. This is in large part due to the use of miked boutique amps; a good choice not only for the venue, but acoustic sound. Perhaps as a similar quality control choice Alfa did not take advantage of the house piano but stuck to her own keyboard.
Summary: Alfa is a talented artist whose primary strength lies in lyrics, musicianship and her ability to shift between genres. She and her band should take note of their surroundings, however, and utilize the tools provided—for example, using the house piano rather than cramming a redundant keyboard on stage leaving no room for the band. – Brooke Trout