TVD Live: Pearl and the Beard at the Winchester, 5/12

Last Friday night at the Winchester, which may be Cleveland’s best kept secret music hall, Pearl and the Beard captivated the audience with an enormous sound that surprisingly comes from just three people. The Brooklyn natives are currently touring the US before crossing the pond in June to play the Dot to Dot Music Festival. 

The evening was started by Mark Sherepita, a comedic country-western tinged troubadour adorned in a guitar and harmonica. His music juxtaposed comedy with the smooth delivery of a true performer. Perhaps the most comedic piece by Sherepita was about a Viking woman.

He prefaced it with, “Speaking of love, most of the songs I write are about love…” and then began a tune that spoke of his wife as a Viking woman who “comes up all night with all her might/ to rape and pillage me.” This song had the audience laughing just as much as the rest, but to the trained musician, you could pick up the hint of Wagner’s music that was sampled. I thought that was particularly clever.

Sherepita’s tunes weren’t all just for laughs, however. There was a touching ode called “Intergalactic Cowboy” that delivered a serious message in its lyrics, with a chorus that says, “we’re really all just shovels full of ashes.” Made you think for a minute about what you’re doing, about going out and living your life before it’s gone. Following the more serious ode, Sherepita performed three more tunes and gave Pearl and the Beard a strong welcome to the Winchester’s stage before he played his last, saying, “Pearl and the Beard are going to do that thing they do, and none of us are going to leave the same person we came as. That’s a money-back guarantee.”

And that they did. Taking the stage, the three-piece band comprising Jocelyn Mackenzie (percussion/vocals), Emily Hope Price (cello/vocals), and Jeremy Styles (guitar/vocals), opened with haunted harmonies as they began “Devil’s Head Down.” They followed that tune with “Sweetness” and “Prodigal Daughter.”

A vaudevillian feel was delivered with the tune, “Lost in Singapore,” which was an explosion of Big Tent antics voiced by the glockenspiel and the delicate waltz structured by the cello and guitar’s lines, with Price leading the vocals. Following the airy song was “Reverend,” which is a personal favorite.

This song builds a tension that rips you open and exposes something tender and new beneath. Sheathed in goosebumps, you’ll find yourself riddled with energy as the song nears its close, exploding in a new tempo that begs to be tapped out of your foot or clapped with your hands.

The band provided a softer song with a cover of Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s for Fools.” Leaving the stage to play, the band delivered the heartbreaking tune as they walked through the crowd, finally meeting back towards the stage. This tune was followed with the explosive “Douglas Douglass.”

If you’ve never heard a kazoo wail like a muted trumpet, well, you’ve never heard a kazoo. But you can hear a kazoo take a jazz solo in the tune, “Hot Volcano,” which will get your blood boiling as vocals slink from Price, who leaves you wanting more as she finger-plucks lines out of the cello that leave your mind boggled.

Pearl and the Beard showcases everything that is good about music—musicianship that is powerful even when parred down and acoustic, harmonies that are plucked straight out of a church choir, and passionate playing and singing that leaves the audience moved deeply. Music aside, those three people on stage are some of the kindest souls you’ll meet, so if they’ll be in a town near you, I strongly suggest you go meet them and hear them perform. Tell them I sent you along.

Photos by Jeff Scheuermann

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