Seated in the heart of Bushwick, The Market Hotel has earned a reputation as being one of Brooklyn’s best DIY music venues, and for good reason. Pass through the unmarked doors and climb the tight staircase to the second floor and it feels more like you’re going to a house party than a ticketed show. The intimate, no frills space features a small stage at one end, a bar with cheap booze at the other, and slews of hipsters strewn everywhere in between. Bottles that had been snuck past the lax security were passed around freely and people danced to the house music during set breaks. The Market Hotel’s house concert vibe created an ideal setting for an evening of catchy, hip-shaking tunes from Oakland, CA-based band, Shannon and the Clams.
Having previously cited the Muppets, Disney, and Mr. Rogers as creative influences, the foursome took to the stage looking like characters from a country western version of Alice in Wonderland. Bassist/vocalist Shannon Shaw sported a glimmering silver shirt with her blond locks done up in a beehive hairdo. Both the drummer and keyboardist wore embroidered pearl snap shirts with tassels while guitarist/vocalist Cody Blanchard sported a slim fitting plaid suit and a pencil mustache.
Shannon and the Clam’s love of fiction and fantasy was as apparent throughout their hour long set as it was in their wardrobe. Opening the night with a couple vintage style dreamy R&B numbers, the group sounded as if they were playing at a high school prom circa 1956.
The third song of the set “The Bog”, a cut from the latest release Gone By the Dawn (2015), took a slightly darker but equally whimsical direction. Sung as a chant with Shannon and Cody splitting vocal duties, it tells the eerie tale of a widow who encounters witches and other ghoulish forms while searching for her dead lover’s ghost in the woods. The music, however, has a campy feel that brings to mind the soundtrack from old episodes of Scooby Doo. “The Bog” played out like a two and a half minute B horror film and with a creepy keyboard solo to boot, it was a stand out of the show.
The Clams quickly followed with their first dance number of the evening, the infectious “Telling Myself”, a 60’s style pop rock song about pubescent heartbreak that gave the rambunctious crowd the opportunity to cut loose that it had been waiting for. Girls whipped their hair from side to side and did their best shimmy and shake to the teen beat, pretending like rock n’ roll was new again. Shannon Shaw’s velvety smooth bass playing gave the song its lift while Cody Blanchard complemented her nicely with his staccato style guitar work and back up vocals.
Quite possibly the strongest song of the evening was “How Long”, Shannon and the Clams take on a quintessential Roy Orbison rhythm. A desperate lament of loneliness and despair, the tune also ends with Orbison-esque breaks similar to those on many of his classic hits like “Crying” and “Only the Lonely”. “How Long” saw Shannon, who had appeared somewhat reserved throughout the performance, step into the spotlight and display her soulful, almost Etta James-like vocal power as she belted out the song’s heart-wrenching lyrics.
After a few more crowd favorites including “Rip Van Winkel”, which had the dance floor bouncing underfoot, and “Ozma”, a love song to Shannon’s deceased family dog which featured do0 wop style vocal harmonies, it was time to bid Shannon and her colorful cast of characters goodnight and climb out of the rabbit hole back to reality.