“You picked the right night to come out,” he said. “Monday night.”
Monday night’s show at Cafe Nine was the latest installment of Manic Mondays, put together by Manic Productions, which also does bookings at College Street Music Hall and other stages around New Haven. Manic Mondays started at the beginning of September and has booked shows at Cafe Nine through October. This show began with Mercy Choir delivering a short, fast set, followed by the New York City-based Luke Rathborne and ending with Thomas Wynn and the Believers, on tour from Orlando, Fla.
As most musicians (and audience members) will tell you, booking shows on a Monday night is a gamble. There’s a reason theaters go dark on this first day of the week, and that some restaurants close, and many clubs do, too. Put simply, after a weekend, a lot of people don’t feel like going out.
But it turns out some people do — and those people really want to be there.
So about 20 enthusiastic audience members came out to Cafe Nine. They cheered for Mercy Choir (in which, in full disclosure, this reporter played bass), and for Rathborne, who, alone with a guitar, gave the crowd a charming, intimate set of his songs. Rathborne’s choice to drench his guitar in reverb and just enough distortion was a good one; those six strings and Rathborne’s youthful voice were enough to fill the space and cast a spell, enough that when his second guitar fell over during the first song, Rathborne just gave it a glance and kept playing.
His best songs were love songs. One, a cover of the Big Star song “Thirteen,” took the audience lyrically straight back to high school, with lines about cars and tickets to the dance. “Won’t you tell your dad to get off my back?” Rathborne sang. “Tell him what we said about ‘Paint It Black.’” Another, about a bittersweet breakup, had audiences members shushing a couple people talking in the middle of the room so they could hear better.
Thomas Wynn and the Believers, meanwhile, were a big band. Its six members — Thomas Wynn on lead vocals and guitar, Olivia Wynn on vocals, and tambourine, Chris “Bell” Antemesaris on harmonica and rhythm guitar, Dave Wagner on bass, Ryan Miranda on drums, and Colin Fei on keys — crowded Cafe Nine’s stage with members and gear. And their sound, pulling from Southern rock and R&B, was warm and vast, each player contributing just enough, and never getting in one another’s way. At the center of the band’s dynamic were the Wynns themselves. Their startling harmonies drove every song, whether it was the stripped-back “Wade Waist Deep” (above) or a straight-up rocker complete with whirling organ and blazing harmonica.
In between songs, meanwhile, the Wynns revealed themselves to be people who knew how to make a family out of strangers. “We’ve been up to New Haven before and here we are again,” Thomas said at the beginning of their set. “Thanks for coming out.”
Olivia, it turned out, had made a chocolate chip and walnut cookie cake. “Help yourself, or we’ll just eat it all,” she said. “Or at least I will.” The audience obliged. As the Believers tore through their set, the cookies in the tray disappeared one by one. And when the band ended their last song, the cheers thrown their way them were as loud as the ones that had greeted them.
The next Manic Mondays show is on Oct. 2 at Cafe Nine, 250 State St., and features Caroline Rose, Daphne Lee Martin, and Lys Guillorn. Show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, click here.