For a summer I was convinced that Phox‘s Monica Martin and I were in love with the same man. This is a long and sordid story, one which exposes the perils of social media on the mind of an ultra-neurotic narcissist. I am aware that such a conviction does not paint me in a flattering light. As it goes, social media has destroyed my blissful ignorance, turning a fantastical mental playground into a sludge of made-up anxiety. But the silent competition between the hilarity of our tweets (existing exclusively in my head) gave birth to a question I needed to answer:
Could I choose to hate Monica Martin, or did I want to make her my best friend?
After some time deliberating on a combination of answers to the preceding question, I abandoned my quest. And as the adorable, impeccably dressed, pristine singer of a group of talented, precious, glasses-adorned male instrumentalists, Monica Martin was virtually impossible to dislike.
Mostly, though, the saga went away because I fell in love with another man, and when that one didn’t work out (as I am still in the unenviable many frogs era of my life), I turned to Phox to get me through it. As Monica remarked on opening act Field Report last night, “Hearing his songs feels like catching up with an old friend, one who has all of this wisdom, yet is somehow still as confused a you are.” It’s comforting. And it’s how I felt in embracing the crackling and timely vulnerability of Phox’s debut 2014 album.
The solace of Phox’s impeccably arranged songs is even more apparent live, and why I’ve taken myself on dates to every show they’ve played in Nashville. The opportunity to sip whiskey while Monica Martin’s smooth and swirling voice massages a perpetually broken heart is akin to gorging on a block of brie coupled with a glass of Pinot Noir. It is a beautiful pairing, a sophisticated indulgence that has yet to bring me anything except sheer gratification.
Mercy Lounge is a large enough venue, and the patrons of the show sprinkle way into the back- a definite increase in audience size since the last time they performed at the neighboring High Watt. Clearly, people have caught onto the musical web that Phox seems to magically cast, between the salient sweetness of their harmonies and the rare tightness in their instrumental prowess. Through an acoustic version of “1936” and an astute, improvisational rendition of their single “Slow Motion,” Phox captivated the crowd, encapsulating the audience in a bubble of subtle and intimate storytelling. Monica mentions between songs her confounding disbelief that so many people are in attendance- after all, Netflix offers a slew of interesting, antiquated highbrow dramas to keep us company at night. I assume that Monica is also a social introvert, and her astrological sign must be something compatible with my own. (Taurus? Aquarius?) I find myself increasingly smitten with her on-stage persona, which is the antithesis of anything put-on; unafraid of blundering banter, palpably casual in her conversation with the band and the crowd, all tied together by one of the most untouchable vocal performances around today.
In the highlight of the show, the group performed a new song featuring a whistling recorder solo and a jungle-infused cacophony of sound. Just about half-way through the deliberate entropy and meticulously thrown vocals, Monica began to laugh so intensely that she had to shield her gaze from the audience in order to keep on with the song. The moment was so exquisite, so adorable and earnest, it aroused hollers of approval and shared giggling amongst a notoriously stoic crowd. In that one moment of humbling perfection and charisma, I realized that I am too in love with Monica Martin to ever be her friend.