Bianca's Upset II at Ovvio Arte feat. Those Darlins, The Jane Shermans and Adia Victoria

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Being a studio space whose regular uses include video and design work by proprietors Veta Cicolello and Theo Antoniadis, The Spin isn’t sure if Ovvio Arte is usually set up as an intimate venue, but it adapts well: high ceilings, appropriate P.A. and plenty of room for a couple hundred patrons. The series of panels along the back of the stage — topped with the letters O-V-V-I-O, which were separated by colored fluorescent tubes — gave the place an appealing, slightly retro feel, like Hamburg’s Star Club circa 1961 perhaps, minus the scantily clad dancers. One thing’s for sure: We were glad to be out of the rain and into the latest installment of Ovvio’s Bianca’s Upset concert series on Thursday night.

We were trying to answer burning questions like “Who is this Bianca, and what has damaged her calm?” when Adia Victoria and her band kicked off their set with a riff on “Green Onions.” Trade not-so-secret: Starting with any kind of Stax reference is guaranteed to perk our ears up. We were impressed by Adia’s tight band, who dealt out jazzy blues, arranged elegantly and delivered fluidly. Whether or not this is their regular gig, these cats are seasoned. Relative newcomer Adia played and sang well, but with a kind of Joanna Newsom-meets-Billie Holiday affect to her voice that didn’t fit quite right. Far be it for us to tell anyone how to sing, but her speaking voice landed better on our ear. We’re into straightforward songs, but Adia’s tunes have yet to reach the point where they really showcase her personality; they felt like they could be anybody’s songs, and that’s not what you want when you’re trying to stand out in a sea of hopefuls. All that said, her strong fundamental skills and relaxed stage presence mark her as someone to keep our eyes and ears on in days to come.

While we waited for The Jane Shermans to set up, we saw their guitarist’s two pedal boards and groaned inside, having witnessed many a bro sporting a full Guitar Center display rack yet playing the blandest parts we can’t remember. However, we’re glad we held our judgment, since guitar-slinger/songwriter/producer Angelo Petraglia showed us that he knows how to use every single one of those pedals to maximum effect. With powerhouse drummer Joshua Moore, Petraglia makes a great foil for frontlady/bassist/bringer of thunder Eulene Sherman, whose pro-grade vocals immediately brought to mind Melissa Etheridge, with less gravel. The trio delivered 45 solid minutes of first-Bush-administration hard rock, with accents that would have marked them progressive at the time. They’re not so much our bag, but The Jane Shermans do their thing with a hard-to-fake passion, and more than a few in the crowd were on board, as evidenced by a dude in a suit hollering for them to turn it up.

We could wax all kinds of philosophical about Those Darlins and their journey from ragamuffins to road warriors, but to get straight to the point, they’ve continued down the path we saw them on last summer, ratcheting up the rock in their repertoire almost to a point where the “garage” tag no longer fits. As they continue work on a new album with engineer Roger Moutenot, Jessi Darlin and band (including new bassman Adrian Barrera, introduced to us by a friend as on leave from Gentlemen Jesse and His Men) are deepening their exploration into pub rock and other somewhat-more-sophisticated expressions of rock ‘n’ roll. With their white-on-black outfits, they even resemble Dr. Feelgood a bit.

Though they’ve trimmed back in the goofball antics department — no breakaway dresses or rubber chickens this time — the Darlins have replaced said antics with a sharper lyrical tack and polished musicianship that fit a mature band in it for the long haul. They haven’t lost their sense of humor (frontlady Jessi Darlin, who spent most of the evening incognito in a beat poet costume, suggested we all meet her in the studio’s confessional after the show), but first and foremost they’re out to kick some asses. Their set featured mostly new material with a handful of cuts from Screws Get Loose, capped by “Be Your Bro” as an encore. After stopping to confer warm wishes, we sashayed our way through the after-show dance party to the exit. Well played, Darlins. We certainly think you have what it takes to outshine Mumford & Sons in the originality department when you play their Gentlemen of the Road concert series this summer.

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