I had not yet heard this band and was thus amongst a very select few of the packed audience in attendance that night. My initial thoughts during their performance went beyond recognition that I was hearing something a bit different. What I heard evoked Portishead and Broken Social Scene, acts which unpretentious and loose ADA singer Jen Mahon likes but does not necessarily list amongst her own personal influences.
Ethereal looking Mahon is adept at using her vocals as an instrument. What is distinctive about it are her slick transitions in style reflecting the various tempo changes over the course of ADA’s sets characteristic to their particular sound.
Guitarist Pouya Birgani writes all of the band’s material but seems more than happy to yield centre stage to his vivacious and exotic frontwoman. The persistent percussion drive provided by drummer Mike Petroianu and a mysterious gentleman known only as "Wolfman" on bass punctuate the rhythm behind Mahon.
The combo plays well together and does not upstage each other striking a more balanced approach than other groups generally do.
"We’re a band that’s been through a lot together, and through that we’ve learned to just relax and feed off each other and our crowd.
Maybe that’s the main appeal to our shows – we dedicate ourselves so much to our music, but still try not to take our performances too seriously," said Mahon matter-of-factly.
The way they perform is laid-back but hardly casual and certainly not easy listening. They have reached a comfort level with their own repertoire and what they can do using the language of music. While it’s definitely alternative but it can’t really be classified as punk or avant garde though some might pin them down as such.
ADA’s independently produced CD, which is set for release in spring 2008, is the first accurately recorded interpretation of how this band sounds at their best in live performance. It appears to actually have been composed on instruments rather than simply programmed in studio and that means it sounds natural, which is the way music should. It does break some new ground both for the band and alternative music in general.
With acts of the calibre of ADA, Basia Lyjak, Billy & the Lost Boys, and Frankie Whyte & the Dead Idols amongst those gracing its stage over the past six months, it would appear that the El Mocambo is enjoying a remarkable resurgence. It’s great to see the Elmo continue to attract such top flight, cutting edge bands and enthusiastic crowds after so long on the scene.