NEWTOWN SQUARE—Saturday, Oct. 8, brought two musicians to the stage of whose musical dynamic can only be truly appreciated live. Opener Mia Dyson left commercial success in her native Australia to blaze new trails in the states. Headliner Seth Glier's music and vocals are catchy, but his energy was infectious.
Dyson embodies the idea of a female rocker. Everything from her snakeskin shoes and pseudo-mohawk hairstyle pairs perfectly with a voice that emulates her heroes Bonnie Raitt, Chrissy Hynde, and Lucinda Williams. While growing up, she would spend hours with her dad as he built handmade guitars. Soon, she was teaching herself solos and by age 19 she was on they road performing with artists like Raitt. She still plays her dad's guitars.
Dyson's stage persona was subtle, saying very little besides "cheers" between each song. But it allowed the set to really showcase her talent. Her voice was a little raspy and everything a female rocker should be. Her guitar work was the highlight of the show. Dyson could easily be the best female guitarist to take stage at Burlap and Bean of late.
In one of her few introductions, she described a song she wrote about growing up. She explained how she never thought she fit in then added, "Didn't we all feel like that? We were just kids."
Dyson believes songs are all about heart and soul. "Telling your truth, no matter how mundane or profound, and singing it from the heart" is the most important factor of songwriting for Dyson.
Dyson ended her set with a somewhat Johnny Cash-like song. Her final song was inspired by women she had met in a Melbourne, Australia, prison where she would perform. The song was loud, raw, and made you long for just one more tune when she left the stage.
"I believe that there is nothing more powerful than hearing the right song at the right time. Songs help guide us and keep us on track. Songs can remind us of where we came from and how far we've come. I try to do this each night," explained headliner Glier when he took the stage.
Glier's set opened with the intro to his latest album, The Next Thing Right. It was a foot-stomping call to attention and his gospel choir voice made it feel like an old-fashioned church revival.
Glier settled behind the keyboard for the next few songs. The term 'settled' should be used loosely. In fact, he barely sat down. At one point during his set, Glier almost knocked the bench over. Glier was like a kid on Christmas and letting him perform was the present.
Through each song there was a wave of energy and emotion that didn't slow down for even the more somber songs. Ryan Hommel (who also co-produced Glier's latest album) accompanied Glier on stage and played the guitar, keyboards, and the tambourine on his ankle.
Even at only 22, Glier has collected a wealth of experiences that he writes down in verse, everything from break-ups, his small hometown, and stories from the charity work he does. He explained that after doing about 250 shows last years, a lot of his songs turned out to be travel ballads.
"Lately, I've had a lot more balance in things so my songs tend to be more of a reflection of where I seem to be going. I often like writing about other characters that have nothing to do with me (especially characters that I'd disagree with morally)...sometimes I meet those characters on the road," he explained. "This is very much the Randy Newman school of songwriting and I like it a lot because I can get out of my own head and write much more truthfully about a particular emotion or feeling."
Some artists will hold back details to keep identities or emotions secret, but not Glier. He describes performing as opening up every night and he does this with an unabashed confidence. Songs include specific narrative details like a novel or a confession.
His performance included a new song that has never been performed live before and that transitioned into U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." He also covered a song by Liz Longley, who he met while attending Berkley School of Music in Boston.
The lively set ended with a sing-along and clap-along with one last rousing song. A show with that much action would wear out any performer, but Glier hopped off stage and kept on going, mingling with fans and audience members.
"I feel incredibly passionate and grateful all the time that I get to make music and connect with people for a living," said Glier. "Since I don't know of an address to send my gratitude to, I put it out in everything I do."