Concert Preview: Mutual Benefit at Black Cat
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, DC’s Black Cat welcomes Mutual Benefit, the indie rock project of 25-year-old singer-songwriter Jordan Lee. Free-spirited, yet deeply poignant and even hauntingly so, Lee’s music evokes a sense of contemplative nostalgia and intense longing for something much beyond him.
Each track on Lee’s beautiful debut, Love Crushing Diamond, is part of a larger story detailing the effects of a nomadic, rootless lifestyle on his personal relationships. But, regardless of the pain it brought him, this kind of lifestyle was an important step in Lee’s life. In his “soul-searching” journey from Austin, TX to Brooklyn, NY, solitude and reflection allowed him to find important parts of himself that he wanted to understand.
And it wasn’t just about himself, either. Through his journey, Lee came to accept himself for who he was, but also life for what it is. As he said in an interview with the New York Times Style Magazine, “The big lesson I learned is you’re not supposed to feel good all the time — that it’s easier to just be O.K. with things you can’t control.”
Moreover, the album isn’t only a product of his reflections during solitude, but rather an important story of relationships, some romantic, some with friends and family. One particularly gorgeous track from the album, “Advanced Falconry,” is a metaphor for the fleeting nature of relationships. He sings, “And she talks softly/sees through me/says something/I can’t hear it/But I won’t forget/The way she flies,” fondly reminiscing over the very real and comforting feeling of being connected with someone, even when the feeling is only a memory. As Lee told the Times, “I found that 100 percent of the time, joy flies away from you, but then comes back if you let it.”
Lee’s bittersweet experience relationships is evident in the video for “Advanced Falconry,” created by the filmmaking collective Bangs and directed by Allie Avital Tsypin. The video stretches out a short scene between a family with young children and shows, in slow motion, the range of emotions human beings can go through within a few seconds. As Lee told the Times, “When everyone is pretending to be happy, you actually make the worst faces, and the slo-mo captures that. It becomes this really good metaphor to depict the space between realness and artificiality.”
As you can imagine, there is a depth to Lee’s music- something that he hopes to preserve even when he moves toward the corporate music world. For awhile, he was playing donation-based shows, taking money in a hat after each song. He didn’t want to sign with a professional label because he didn’t want to take the chance of losing his autonomy as a musician and artist. But he has come around to the idea of signing and touring, not without promising to himself that he will “retain an overall level of intimacy when it comes to his work.”
To feel Lee’s intimacy and connection with his audience, come see him play his intricate folk songs at Black Cat at 8 p.m. on February 5th, 2014. Tickets can be purchased here for $12.
Photo: Whintey Lee via Pitch Perfect PR