Harpist enchants with psychedelic sounds

Rochester-based singer-songwriter and harpist Mikaela Davis played a show in the Kinetic Gallery on Friday Nov. 7. Sophomore Ella Mosco also performed, singing and playing the ukulele. Activities Commission’s Valley Entertainment and Arts & Exhibits hosted the concert along with Geneseo Late Knight in the Kinetic Gallery. Mosco opened the show with a series of acoustic covers. The set included several well-known pop songs, which she encouraged audience members to sing along to. Mosco dressed in all black for the show, resembling a sort of goth Florence Welch—if the “machine” were her voice rather than an actual band. Her voice embodies dreamy, coffee shop-pop perfectly and Mosco used it to her advantage.

Highlights of Mosco’s set included a stripped-down, sweetened-up version of “Cut Your Bangs” by indie punk band Radiator Hospital and a melodic, lingering take on The Zutons’ “Valerie” which was famously covered by Amy Winehouse. There was always a hint of sadness in her voice—even when she took us back to 1999 with her take on Destiny’s Child hit “Say My Name”––but it was a beautiful sadness, one to look forward to at campus events in the future.

Davis began her set soon after Mosco’s ended. She was instantly at home in front of the crowd with her unwieldy-looking––albeit elegant––instrument. Davis is an experienced musician, having studied the harp for 15 years and studied musical performance at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Her sound is retro and psychedelic, but also highly musical despite the myriad of electronic effects used. She experimented with phasers and delay to create a fuzzy lo-fi sound, but her voice was clear and angelic––even when the words themselves weren’t.

One of the high points of Davis’ set was “River,” an original off her eponymous 2012 debut. Her expert use of strings as well as synthesizers created a layered sound; her drawn-out vocals only added to the sense of the melody itself having a flow or a current to it. It was impressive to watch her fingers move quickly along with her effortless and languid vocals. Even the slow songs in her set were saturated with feelings of sweetness, and these complemented the melancholy of Mosco’s sound well.

“It was definitely an honor to get asked to play,” Mosco said. “I was so happy that so many people took time out of their schedules to come tonight.”

Davis added how struck she was by the respectful and attentive audience. How could they not be, especially with all the unique sounds the two produced?

“I got my sound because I grew up playing classical harp,” Davis said. “But I’ve always been really interested in pop music and psychedelic music. I was always jealous of my friends who had guitars and did all these really cool effects. And then I thought, ‘hey, why not?’”

By experimenting with electronic looping and guitar pedals, Davis takes a classical instrument into the 21st century.

A self-proclaimed fan of the harpist, Mosco admitted she was in awe of Davis’ performance. “It was so incredible,” she said. “I was kind of in a trance watching her.”