The Hippo


Dec 5, 2019








Jocie Adams. Courtesy photo.

Arc Iris with Nat Baldwin, Jonah Tolchin, Blood Warrior, Liv Carrow and Will Kindler

When:  Saturday, Nov. 22, at 5 p.m. 
Where: UU Church, 25 Main St., Peterborough
Tickets: $15 advance ($20 door); 

Like a rainbow
Arc Iris headlines eclectic NH show

By Michael Witthaus

On paper, Jocie Adams emanates seriousness. Classically trained, she worked for NASA before shifting careers to join DIY Americana stalwarts Low Anthem, a band known for releasing hand-numbered albums with dust sleeves made from recycled cereal boxes. After testing the waters with solo discs and one-off gigs, Adams formed Arc Iris in 2012. 

The like-minded players in her band include cellist Robin Ryczek, who studied in Tunisia and runs a school of rock in Kabul, Afghanistan; trumpet player Mike Irwin; and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Rose, whose credits include Aoife O’Donovan and Josh Ritter.
Despite a weighty resume, Arc Iris’s music exudes a playfulness fitting for its name, which means rainbow. 
“You’re my little onion I’m still getting to the middle,” coos Adams (first name sounds like Joss Stone’s) on “Singing So Sweetly,” a ragtime-y number from the band’s eponymous debut. Other standouts include the languid “Canadian Cowboy” and “Powder Train,” which resembles a Tom Waits/Wailin’ Jennys co-write done in the 1940s.
The music’s exhilarating freedom reflects her impulses for forming Arc Iris, Adams explained in a Skype interview as her band prepared to open for Jeff Tweedy in Stockholm, Sweden. 
“I had so much I wanted to write about and express,” she said. “Playing with Low Anthem was an incredible experience. … I learned a lot about arranging and working with people and singing. I won’t ever forget it; I loved it, but it just became time that I had other things that I wanted to do and other music that I wanted to express.”
Arc Iris’ lineup stretches and contracts; an upcoming New Hampshire show will be a duo or trio. The full band includes Zach Tenorio-Miller on piano, drummer Ray Belli and Max Johnson playing bass. The three were performing together when Adams caught their set at a bar in her hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.
“By chance, the band came over to my place afterwards and we kept in touch and played together,” she said. “So we kind of have the two halves of our band. … Zach’s world collided with my world.”
Rose wryly coined the resultant sound “mystical rainbow fairy kitten astronauts hurtling through the cosmos.” Adams has no idea what he means exactly, but said, “It’s perfect. It expresses a feeling.”
Adams isn’t averse to tackling big subjects in her songs. Both “In Honor of the Rainbows” and “Might I Deserve to Have a Dream” address LBGT rights. The latter tune is somewhat cryptic, she conceded. “It’s about a transgender person that doesn’t fit into society questioning their place. If you listen carefully it’s there … it’s meant to speak to those people but also speaks to others in similar situations.”
Though Adams writes the lyrics and sings lead on all songs, Arc Iris is a collective, collaborative endeavor. Artistically speaking, everything is on the table.
“It’s the facility of the musicians,” Adams said. “In Low Anthem we were all … good at what we did, but we had a pretty specific path, and the facility of these guys is wide and ranging.  It’s like sailing; you can do whatever. I can say, ‘Robin, can you play a melody in this crazy key and then throw in some pits and false harmonics, and then jump around like a fairy and turn into a monster?’ She’ll go, ‘Yeah,’ and she’ll do it.” 
Adams laughed heartily at the thought. 
“We all really like each other, so even traveling is fun,” she said. “The best part is playing for people … we are all creating. It’s so wonderful to work with these guys; it’s a really special process.” 
As seen in the November 20, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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