Marika Hackman Led a Night of Guitars, Laughter and Hiccups at The Back Room
English rocker Marika Hackman made her Milwaukee debut Thursday night in the
coffee house-green house-music venue that is The Back Room at Colectivo. The
intimate, foliage-adorned room was perfect for a get-to-know you. The stage’s
proximity to the crowd was enough to absorb every eyebrow cock and
micro-expression Hackman had to offer. London quartet The Big Moon made their
debut as well, completing a bill comprised entirely of talented, badass women.
The Big Moon kicked off the night with goofy vibes and catchy, Brit-pop songs. It might have been their first time in Milwaukee, but they seemed entirely at home, even giving the city an unofficial new slogan: “Laughing. Crawling. Milwaukee.” It’s a phrase that also sums up the night. The sense of apprehension that might otherwise have been induced by their off-kilter lyrics and heavy organ effects were offset by constant jokes and infectious giggle fits. During “Bonfire,” frontman Juliette Jackson joined the crowd to dance and goof around, literally crawling hands-and-knees through the room at one point.
The crowd gave The Big Moon a warm welcome back later when they joined Marika Hackman for her set, as they did on her latest album, I’m Not Your Man. Hackman sang murky love songs backed by three guitars, bass, drums and stunning harmonies from The Big Moon’s three vocalists. The songs were bolder and more playful than their studio versions—less eerie but just as affecting. She stuck mainly to up-tempo numbers like “Good Intentions” and “Boyfriend,” keeping the atmosphere light and paying just as much attention to the audience as it was to her. “Did someone just hiccup?” she asked mid-set (seriously, in the middle of a rock show, she heard that), halting the beginning of a new song to try and scare the hiccups out of an audience member with loud noises.
She treated attendees to some older songs, too, playing “Cinnamon” from her first EP and the fan-favorite “Ophelia.” It was interesting to see her new take on these tunes; she performed them more in the style of her new album, trading their acoustic guitar and folk qualities for electric guitar, a crunchier sound and an adamant attitude. Then, after all the humor and strength she displayed throughout her set, Hackman was still able to pull the room with her in a hairpin mood change when she played “Gina’s World.” The performance was quiet and halting.
It’s not often that you see five women killing on stage at a rock gig and, unfortunately, even less often that the whole room takes them seriously. All silliness aside, the depth of talent Marika Hackman and The Big Moon revealed to Milwaukee last night was no joke.