Thao @ Cats Cradle 2022

Live Review: Thao + Becca Mancari + Why Bonnie @ Cats Cradle – April 1st 2022

Back in May of 2020, Singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen released the album Temple, the fifth and last as Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.  The self-produced effort was a bit of a departure from the party atmosphere of the previous Thao & the Get Down Stay Down releases, harnessing more emotion and for the first time addressing personal topics including Thao’s Vietnamese heritage, family background, and queer identity.  Temple provided both a newfound sense of freedom and an ideal curtain drop for the solid 10-year-plus run of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.

It’s been a long time coming, but now, two years on from the release of Temple, Thao Nguyen, performing simply as Thao, has embarked on a North American tour. The run of shows kicked off in March, and stopped this past Friday at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro NC.

Even before Thao took the stage at the Cradle, there was a pervading sense of pent-up excitement circulating amongst the fans.  When the lights dropped and Thao and her band took the stage, opening with “Departure” from 2016’s A Man Alive, the bubble of anticipation burst, radiating a crackling energy that filled the room and seemed to feed the band’s performance.  It didn’t take long to dig into the songs from Temple, as “Phenom” was next up on the setlist.  Thao was radiant in a bright sequined outfit that captured and reflected the stage lights as she cycled through instruments and songs, at times playing mandolin, guitar, banjo, and even hopping up on the drum riser to add some additional percussion for a song. The set created a nice balance as it drew from across her catalog and even added something new, with highlights that included “Holy Roller,” “Marrow,” and “Guts.” With each subsequent song Thao seemed to ramp up the energy, layering strong passionate vocals over furious playing.   Not to be outdone, the band was in lockstep with Thao, matching her enthusiasm.  If there was one word to sum up the performance, it was fierce.  By the time the set closed with “Meticulous Bird,” both band and crowd seemed satisfied but spent.

After a short break, Thao retuned to the stage alone for an emotional take on “Feet Asleep.”  As the crowd was still voicing their approval, the band returned to send the crowd home with a glorious version of “Age of Ice.”  The show ran the gamut of emotions, mixing darkness and anger with joyfulness and elation.  By the end of the night, anticipation had been replaced by catharsis. 

The evening started with a set of guitar pop from Texas-based indie rockers, Why Bonnie.  The band made the most of the difficult task of engaging an indifferent and still arriving audience.  By the end of their set, it was apparent that they had turned more than a few heads and their infectious songs had raised some ears.

Taking the middle slot and providing the direct lead-in to Thao fell to singer-songwriter Becca Mancari, whose mixing of raw and deeply personal lyrics with rootsy folk-rock and fuzzy indie-rock guitar made for an unexpected but ultimately compelling performance.  Mancari was engaging, and her enthusiasm was as contagious as her songs

Thao + Becca Mancari + Why Bonnie @ Cat’s Cradle
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography

Your email address will not be published.