EBASS Blog: Stains of a Sunflower, Prateek Poddar, Ryan Sweezey, and Conor Hennessey at Midway Cafe

Dan Martinelli, Boston-area musician and songwriter

Dan Martinelli, Boston-area musician and songwriter

By Dan Martinelli  |  Midway Cafe  | October 14, 2015

Some of the best-kept secrets in the independent music world can be found at
small clubs and bars on weeknights when most people are watching television or
heading to bed early, in submission to the morning commute. For those brave
enough to venture out, a great local show took place last Wednesday night at
Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain. The show featured local band Stains of a
Sunflower, as well as solo artists Prateek Poddar, Ryan Sweezey, and Conor

The bar was pleasantly quiet, as most of the patrons were there for the music
rather than the Bruins game that played on the television. This created an
ideal atmosphere for the first musician to take the stage, Conor Hennessey.
Deftly fingerpicking chords on a beat old Takamine, he played a collection of
songs with a classic, country-folk style. Hennessey's original songs blended
well with covers of artists such as Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Nina Simone.
He sang with a gentle but confident voice and seemed like the stage was his
home, which is not to say that he was a showman. He came off more like a
relater and a storyteller, with a style rooted firmly in tradition. "That's the
closest I'll come to rapping tonight," he quipped after one driving story
song. His musicianship and charm were well-received by the attentive audience.

Next, Ryan Sweezey put together a performance that fired on all cylinders.
Despite his young age, Sweezey played with the kind of polish that only
someone with a lot of gigs under his belt can pull off. He effortlessly switched
between strumming and picking the strings without flubbing the beat. He knew
when to back off of the microphone on the loud notes. He owned the neck of his
guitar, and used build-ups and variations to subtly support the dynamic arc of
each song. This is a man who knows his songs inside and out and knows how to
deliver them.

About those songs: Sweezey has the makings of a great pop songwriter, sneaking
sophisticated chords and structures into catchy love songs. His melodies were
infectious, and did much to showcase a well-developed voice that impressed
even the musicians in the audience. He even drew a few cries of "Woo!" from
the mostly tame crowd when he went high on the chorus of his song, "Late Is
The Hour."

Prateek Poddar started out the third set of the evening by showing that he
knows how to play the blues with a gritty 12-bar number about a lying lover.
When it comes to blues music there are plenty of imitators, but this guy made
us believe in the pain, digging into his melodies with an afflicted growl that
occasionally busted out into a desperate scream. During the interludes, he
showed himself to be a true harmonica player. Whereas many singer-songriters
will simply mash out a few chords to fill their spaces, Poddar made the harp
sing, bending notes with perfect tone and timing.

After a couple of blues songs, Poddar changed gears, announcing, "I'm going to
play a song where I actually sing this time" before launching into the tender
"When You Were Loved." Next he went straight for the heart, pulling out a new
original written from the point of view of a father who has lost his son. In
case there was any doubt remaining as to where this songwriter's heart lies,
he showed us all with solid covers of the traditional "St. James Infirmary" and
Jason Isbell's "Elephant" before closing the set with a few more well-
constructed originals.

Despite the late night, most of the audience stuck it out until the very end,
and they were rewarded with a strong performance from a very promising new
band. Stains of a Sunflower threw down a powerful set behind frontwoman and
songwriter Natalie Renée. Despite having formed fairly recently, the band was
very tight and cohesive. Their cues were in sync all night and their
arrangements were well-developed. They knew when to sit back and let Renée's
strong voice speak on its own and when to provide the extra punch to
accentuate the natural dynamics of each song.

Renée played acoustic guitar on some songs, while on others she focused
strictly on vocals. She showed an impressive vocal range as well as strong
improvisational skills. Furthermore, she projected a genuine enthusiasm for
her songs and the people she was performing them with and for. Toward the end
of the set, she started giving individual shout-outs to the remaining fans in
the room before the band launched into a cover of "Sex on Fire" and then
finished with "Tree Song", a beautiful number that Renée seemed to have a
special affection for. Those in attendance were happy to have witnessed one of
the first performances of a band that is a great addition to the Boston music

This show was solid from start to finish, showcasing the depth and breadth of
talent here in the Boston area. The performers all delivered, and supported
each other as well. We'll be watching out for more shows featuring new,
emerging artists and featuring them here. Until then, you can check out these
performers online and around town.

Artist links:

Stains of a Sunflower

Prateek Poddar

Ryan Sweezey

Conor Hennessy

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