Attending a concert for a band that has not yet released an album is always an intriguing prospect. On one hand, there’s a palpable excitement at being among the first to hear something. Alternatively, you have to place your trust entirely with the artists performing.
It’s a gambit that often pays off, but there is always that moment – those seconds when the lights drop down and band ascends the stage – when you suddenly realize you have no idea what you’re about to see.
The details surrounding Bermuda Triangle are scarce, a mystery with many puzzle pieces still missing from the box. Comprised of musicians Becca Mancari, Jesse Lafser, and Grammy-winner Brittany Howard, the band has released almost no music and played less than a dozen shows since announcing their existence last summer.
Sure, fans could cheat a little given Howard’s pedigree as the powerhouse core of Alabama Shakes and the available solo work from both Mancari and Lafser. Still, with only two songs released so far, one inevitable question was on everyone’s minds Tuesday night at the Independent: what were we in for?
The concept of an enigmatic musical act is certainly in vogue at the moment, be it the cartoon avatars of Gorillaz or the helmeted duo of Daft Punk. In an age when all the details surrounding the artists we love is but a Google search away, fans seems to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game of having the goods withheld or teased. It’s made surprise releases by acts like Beyoncé and Frank Ocean marquee events in the last several years, but in the case of Bermuda Triangle, something very different is at play.
Far from wanting to hide in the shadows, the Nashville “super” trio is short on details for one very simply reason: There aren’t any.
Following a stellar opening set from Oakland’s own Bells Atlas, Howard explained to the sold-out crowd that Bermuda Triangle was formed over late nights on the porch, where the music came second to the drinking. While the songs performed felt polished, they did all carry the energy of an impromptu group singalong – just one where every member of said group is a phenomenally beautiful singer.
While Howard oscillated between a stand-up bass and an acoustic guitar, Mancari added her nimble guitar skills to the mix. Lafser cradled a banjo for most of the set, and there were also a few harmonica cameos and one very temperamental drum machine. The songs were rich with Southern heartbreak and reflection, sung with the trio alternating lead vocals and frequently harmonizing in heavenly keys.
The loose, free-flowing nature of the evening was the warmth from which Bermuda Triangle drew their power. More than any one stand-out track (and there were several) or the presence of Howard’s peerless pipes in the tiny confines of the Independent, the point of the band is clearly to recreate those tequila-tinged Nashville nights for a new group of friends. The intimate banter and frequent kudos exchanged between the three women on stage was a counterpoint to the melancholy that anchored most of the evening’s music.
Also notable was the band’s enthusiasm for their merchandise. In addition to a Bermuda Triangle shirt and poster, hand-bottled spirit oil was for sale. At one point, following yet another mini-tantrum from the drum machine, Howard asked to borrow a bottle from a fan in the front row to baptize the unruly equipment. Time and time again, the dominant theme for Bermuda Triangle was the friendship shared within the trio. In a sense they are the anti-Oasis, unrelated by blood but closer than many siblings ever get.
The band both entered and left the stage to the bumping beats of Missy Elliott, and everything you could want to know about who they are was encapsulated in the way they danced and reveled to the track. At some point perhaps Bermuda Triangle will release an album, and it will be wonderful for an infinitely larger audience to hear what 500 lucky souls witnessed in the flesh on Tuesday night.
However, it won’t be comparable, because this band is not simply the sum of their songs. They are not only the angelic highs of their voices bound in unison. They are not simply the makers of fine hand-crafted spirit oil available at a merch stand near you.
What they are in fact are three friends in search of a porch. They don’t need a stage or even an audience, but a bottle of tequila might be nice. That’s the mystery of Bermuda Triangle: not where people go, but why they’d ever return.