Rain Phoenix At Zebulon Cafe, Wednesday June 26th 2019
Loss and heartbreak softly filter through Rain Phoenix’s music and the gentle hooks of her delicate melodies stay with you like haunting memories. The singer/songwriter/actress gave a short concert at Zebulon Café on Wednesday night, and people had sat on the floor to religiously listen to her music. They were soon asked to get up in order to free more space as more people wanted to get inside, but the atmosphere certainly stayed intimate and super quiet. Rain had surrounded herself with a full band to play just a few songs, including one of ‘Aleka’s Attic’, a band she formed with her late brother River Phoenix before his tragic death in 1993.
The opener ‘Lalala’, with its quiet and melancholic melody sang with a vulnerable and beautiful voice, surprisingly shifted into some Jon Brion or Aimee Mann-like soundscapes, and this basically gave the tone for the rest of the set. With the help of a toy glockenspiel, she continued to charm the crowd with a fragile smile during the following tune ‘Stay Together’, and when she spoke to us before her song ‘Time is the Killer’, it became obvious she wanted to tell us the story which was at the core of the show. It was a story about her nomadic childhood with a move to Florida and a relationship with a friend, living in a house filled with darkness and sadness due to the loss of a brother who had taken his own life. It was a story about experiencing loss for the first time, and, years later, the passing of her own brother River deepening this profound connection she had with this childhood friend. ‘Years later, I realized how connected we were by loss, loss is one thing that connects us all,’ she added with an obvious gravity. ‘Time is the Killer’, a collaboration with her friend Michael Stipe, was a true beauty, a little gem of a song with a catchy chorus and a thoughtful reflection about time when dealing with grief.
The Phoenix family may be mostly known for their acting, but Rain has a long musical history: she was in the band Aleka’s Attic for nearly 6 years with her brother River, and was involved into different bands over the years, the cultish punk/new wave The Causey Way with her sister Summer (signed to Jello Biafra’s ‘Alternative Tentacles’ record label), and Papercranes with her husband Michael Tubbs, but she also toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a backup singer during their ‘One Hot Minute’ tour in 1996, and collaborated with Stipe on many projects (including the soundtrack to Happiness, and several REM songs). At 46, she is certainly not a newcomer on the music scene, and with a calming presence on stage, she was a large-opened grieving heart who did not hesitate to break the melancholia to do a tap dancing number in the middle of a song, like a spontaneous moment of instant joy interrupting the somber mood.
She closed the short set with ‘Lost in Motion’, one of her favorite Aleka’s Attic songs, a ballad for film noir with the addition of a sulky saxophone. Only two songs of Aleka’s Attic have ever been officially released but 25 years later, Rain seems to be ready to let it go, and take all the stress of the day away thanks to the soothing beauty of music.
Time is the Killer
Lost in Motion