Singer/songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield played the Doug Fir last Thursday with fellow Nashvillians Sun Seeker, who opened the show and later joined her backing band. I hadn't heard of them before that night, but they warmed up the crowd with easygoing psych-rock that sounded inspired by warmer, brighter times and places. Apparently they signed to Jack White's Third Man Records in 2016 and released a debut EP last year called Biddeford. One song in particular stuck with me—"Won't Keep Me Up at Night," which is made great by a chorus of golden, honeyed harmonies.
Mayfield always seems equally tough and charming—at one point she gave away a squeezable bottle of mayonnaise that was left onstage, and later pretended her red wine was period blood. She made a similar joke at her last Doug Fir show in January 2016, where she teetered on DIY-bedazzled heels in front of an entirely seated audience. Mayfield's got a long history with the subterranean Portland venue, and said the first time she played there 10 years ago, she wasn't even old enough to drink.
She played a few fan favorites, like "Kiss Me Again" (from her 2008 debut With Blasphemy So Heartfelt) and "Our Hearts Are Wrong" (from 2011's Tell Me). But the majority of Mayfield's set was split between songs from her last album, 2014's Make My Head Sing..., and her latest, 2017's Sorry Is Gone. The latter chronicles an abusive relationship and her struggle to recover and reclaim her own space in the world. It's a raw, sometimes difficult listen—she recounts the abuse and its aftermath in great detail, with lyrics about feeling dehumanized, lonely, and angry (especially on songs like "WTF," which stands for "white trash fighting").
Mayfield pairs these powerful words with equally powerful guitar riffs, and in case you weren't aware, she can shred. Her music is a glittery, twangy, razor-edged bridge between punk rock and alt-country that centers on these zigzagging guitar melodies and her slightly drawled vocals. Despite the record's heavy subject matter, Mayfield's dry humor kept the audience laughing—before introducing the song "Bum Me Out" she warned, "I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this song has the word 'bum' in it." That's the magic of a Jessica Lea Mayfield show; for all the darkness she's lived through, she brings twice as much light.