Music of love and loss for Valentine’s Day

Jill Fisher

embalmingEva – Jesse Hatten and Galalee Wright – perform at Sacred Heart Music Center on Valentine's Day. Photo by Jill Fisher.

Two young women opening for Superior Siren at Sacred Heart Music Center blew folks away with their emotive and mesmerizing performance this past Valentine’s Day. The duo – named embalmingEva, which means preserving life – is the creation of Jesse Hatten (age 23) and Galalee Wright (age 22). They played to a full house, half of which turned out for Superior Siren, the other by embalmingEva’s followers.

From the outset, it was evident this was an atypical audience for SHMC since there was only a smattering of grey-haired folks in attendance.  

Performing with an electronic “synth,” the duo wove an experience of sound and choreography in about six compositions that left the audience both stunned and appreciative of their unique talents. The moody and rather dark strains were offset by the strikingly beautiful gowns the two writhed in throughout each song. At times they mirrored each other’s movements, at others they moved almost as one. The dramatic vision they created is memorable and could be described as exotic if not actually erotic (apt for Valentine’s Day and edgy for the Sacred Heart venue).  

Their first number was composed especially for SHMC with electronic backing music that blended seamlessly with their rich and sultry harmonies. I didn’t catch most of the lyrics nor song titles, but never mind, in this case the reverberations of the former sanctuary heightened the emotional impact of the performance.

If the first number alerted the audience to the pair’s awesome vocals the second, “Feral Chamber,” provided a visceral experience when the audience was invited to scream at one point during that composition. Indeed, the audience responded whole-heartedly and it was a moving audio experience even for those of us who did not join in.  

Moving to the grand piano, the women prefaced their four-handed piano rendition of David Bowie’s “As The World Falls Down” with the statement that this was the first time they were performing in public together on that instrument.

The last number, “Panther,” was another one Hatten and Wright composed specifically for that evening’s concert. It highlighted their ability to convey the essence of their music through movement. It contained extended sections of electronic music sans vocals which afforded the audience total immersion in their sensuous choreography.  

An enthusiastic standing ovation attested to the audience’s approval. For those who didn’t make the performance, check out embalmingEva’s YouTube recordings, which I would guess will entice you to attend their next public performance. I know I will try not to miss it!  

Superior Siren was the headlining act at SHMC on this Feb. 14 evening, a foursome comprised of Laura Sellner (acoustic guitar, vocals), Nyssa Krause (standup bass, flute, vocals), Rachel Gobin (cello) and Emma Deaner (drums). Sellner thanked embalmingEva for their fabulous performance. She went on to explain that Superior Siren had opened for the artist Haley on previous Valentine’s Day concerts and, since they had taken over this dedicated gig, they thought it appropriate to invite another female group to open for them. It was a gutsy and generous offer in retrospect since it was a tough act to follow by the four women in black attire.  

Superior Siren

Nevertheless, most of the audience stayed to hear Superior Siren’s “eerie folk” songs of relationships, love and grief. Sellner sang the lead on most of the numbers. Her voice was strong and projecting yet modulated such that it evoked the emotions one can only suppose were intended by lovelorn lyrics. (The acoustics of SHMC tend to muddy lyrics when amplification is used.) One song where the lyrics were understandable was a cover of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”  

Krause’s harmonies were a lovely addition to Sellner’s voice and her flute accompaniment was sweet. Eight of the 12 numbers performed were compositions from the band’s first eponymous album. Two were very personal—“Leone” which Sellner wrote for her grandmother who was grieving her husband’s death. Another was “For Mother” who died in 2018, which had the line “…call you just to say hello.” A loving reminder to everyone to do just that.

The group’s second album is Kill Your Darlings from which a handful of tunes were performed. Those who seek music to assuage their grief can get a taste of the Siren’s music online at      At the end of the concert, embalmingEva joined Superior Siren onstage at the piano to perform a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Again the audience demonstrated their approval with an extended standing ovation.  

Out and About: Friends have been recommending that I check out Sandrocks, a small bar in Sandstone, Minn., that hosts music on a regular basis. In looking up this place online, I found a recording by the Minneapolis-based trio Said in Stone, which was scheduled  to play there on Thursday, Feb. 15. The group’s online recording of the Roches’ 1979 “Runs in the Family” was really quite wonderful. So, I decided to drive the hour south to see them and wasn’t disappointed. Their vocal harmonies were simply sublime.  

Said in Stone

Said in Stone members are Rachel Calvert, Hannah Hendrickson and David Robinson. All play acoustic guitar and sing. The two lengthy sets contained a wide variety of covers (from John Denver to Black Sabbath!) with at least one original tune: “Father Forgive Me.”

Hannah is a contralto whose voice can be both raspy and smooth, even breathy at times. Her rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Love is a Rose” written by Neil Young was wonderful.

Rachel has a lilting soprano voice that brought to mind one of my favorite female vocalists, Lorena McKennitt, when she sang “Corpus Christi Carol” by Benjamin Britten.

Singing harmonies Robinson filled out the middle range with his mellow tenor voice on most of the songs. The cover of “Mr. Blue” by The Fleetwoods was especially good and their final song, “Runs in the Family” was just as good live as it was online.  

The only reservation I had about this place for hearing music is that it’s small with not great acoustics and the dinner crowd was noisy which made it very difficult to hear the performers’ fine vocals. My sense is that Said in Stone could be much better appreciated in a venue like SHMC (provided they weren’t amplified). On the other hand, the Smash Burger was tasty, so I could be tempted to return to hear another group sometime, perhaps one that is basically instrumental and intended to be background music.  

Then on Friday, Feb. 16, I made a point to get down to the recently opened Northern Waters Smokehaus located in the space formerly occupied by Amazing Grace Bakery in the basement of DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace in Canal Park. The space has been reconfigured since I was last here for a Sunday brunch at which Ross Thorn entertained.

The wide stage that was there has been reduced significantly in size such that it’s hard to imagine a four or five piece band playing comfortably there. On this occasion, Sonja and Lee Martin were the entertainment. You can’t go wrong spending time listening to those two with their original songs and lively covers which are quite danceable.

The place was full on this Friday night, which bodes well for the proprietors. Unfortunately the crowd noise made it difficult for many to hear the great music being played.  

Also included in my musical excursions for the week, was a run out to Lake Superior Brewing in the Lakeside neighborhood where the Side String Band was playing on Saturday evening the 17th. You may recall I wrote positively about this group back 2022 (Dec. 15, 2022 issue of the Reader). The four members, Harrison Olk, Adam Staupe, Clancy Ward and Nate Hynum, were in fine form this evening with their bluegrass and country music that makes one want to dance. Too bad there’s not space enough for a dance floor here.

The restaurant was very busy and as I walked around I found the setup to be pretty good for listening to music throughout. High partitions between the tables and seating sections and the bar area located to the rear really help a lot. When in the mood for a wood-fired pizza, a brew and a good band, this place is an excellent option.  

After that brief exploration I headed over to Bent Paddle to take in Boxcar’s gig. Wow, what a great show. I need not repeat the glowing reports of them I’ve written in the past, but I have to say it’s impressive when a band made up of this caliber of musicians starts jumpin’ from the get-go and keeps it up till the last song is played. As one attendee put it, “A cold beer and a hot band”—who could want for more?  

Good news for blues lovers: The Last Highway Band (Mel Sando, Dave Prudhomme and Glen Thomas) have organized a Blues Jam to take place at R.T. Quinlan’s on the second Sunday of each month beginning on March 10. The band will perform simple blues standards and invite others to sit in on with them. Alternatively a musician can play solo or even bring in their own band. Performers are asked to bring their own instruments (only sticks needed by drummers) and to leave their egos at the door.

After having experienced two such blues jams down in the Twin Cities, I am interested to see whether a similar jamming procedure will be followed here. I plan to be there and will let you all know what I think! My wish would be that this jam will inspire some of our younger musicians to start exploring the blues genre.