When we last spotted Thao Nguyen, it was late October and she was at the Cedar Cultural Center belting out tunes from her then-new album of heartbreak, “Know Better, Learn Faster,” with her then-sorta-new band, the Get Down Stay Down, and collaborating with members of the opening act, the Portland Cello Project.
Now Thao is back in town at the same venue with a simpatico new partner, the singer-songwriter Mirah. Both are quirky but enjoyably headstrong composers. Both have moved to the Bay Area from the Pacific Northwest (Thao from Portland, Mirah from Olympia) in the past couple of years. Both are macrobiotic. Most importantly, each admires the other’s work, and welcomes the tune-swapping set list that infuses new, positive slants and creative synergy into their material.
“I want to play banjo and drums, and Mirah wants to play piano and loop pedal, so I hope those will be making an appearance,” says Thao about the gig on the Cedar’s website. While this open-ended, DIY approach sounds like fun (you can see the pair with Thao on banjo here, performing “The Give” by Thao), the better news is that a new ensemble, entitled The Most of All, also appears on the bill. And as you can see from this clip, the added instrumentation exponentially increases the energy level and gives Thao a chance to bang the drums at her whim (discount the Bonerama horn section, who won’t be at the Cedar).
What you see from clips like this one and this one is that Thao is the inveterate rocker of the two, channeling her inner Chrissie Hynde, while Mirah lays back, contributing an ace song or two, and bringing her arresting voice to familiar Thao standbys like “Bag of Hammers” (the second clip).
The contemporary music scene needs more performers like Thao Nguyen, who understands that spontaneity is a lifeblood for her muse, who favors change over calculation, and who keeps finding stimulating new friends with whom to play. May the Cedar remain one of her many homes away from home.
Thao and Mirah and the Most of All at the Cedar Cultural Center, tonight [Thursday, July 1] at 8 p.m.; tickets are $15.