The Chicago-based indie-rock trio Ohmme played an incredible and intimate set at Café Berlin on Thursday night. Though Ohmme only released its first EP in June, its unique sound and discordant harmonies are mesmerizing.
The band started as a duo with singers Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham, who have worked with each other for years as well as with many other artists, including Whitney, Chance the Rapper and Wilco. Recently, Ohmme added drummer Matt Carroll, who also plays in the Chicago-based band Marrow with Stewart.
The two women complement each other’s voices perfectly, and their live performance is amazing because it’s easy to see how the pair matches up their harmonies to create an incredible range of effects. Their sound ranges from sweet to haunting, and the way they collaborate and layer vocals is skillful and intriguing.
On Thursday, they gave the audience a taste of their self-titled EP as well as some new songs that Cunningham mentioned won’t be coming out for a while, but they enjoy playing anyway. One of these, Stewart said, “is about being hangry, so I dedicate it to the burrito we ate about two hours ago.” They also included a cover of Kate Bush’s “There Goes a Tenner.”
A highlight of the set was one of their most-played songs on Spotify, “Fingerprints.” In this song, Stewart and Cunningham captivate with the use of hocketing, which is when notes in a single melody are alternated between the vocalists. Seeing this technique executed live is fascinating and gives an overall sense of how in sync Stewart and Cunningham are.
Halfway through the set, Cunningham brought the show down by playing perhaps the most melancholy song on the band’s EP, “Bully Clouds.”
“This song is dedicated to the idea that we should all look out for each other,” Cunningham said. “Tell people you love them.”
The compassion these women carry comes through when they play live and is evident in their songwriting, and “Bully Clouds” is one of the most prominent examples of this. The hook, “You’re happier when we are dying,” illustrates discontent with the lack of empathy in the world, particularly from leaders. Played live, it’s especially heart-wrenching and moving.
While the band has more serious moments, Cunningham and Stewart also display a playfulness and interact with each other in a way that is charming and engaging. They’re especially charming offstage when interacting with fans and were eager to chat with audience members at their merchandise booth. Cunningham, at one point engaged in conversation, didn’t hesitate to rip the plastic off of a new vinyl just so she could show the political message discreetly etched onto the record.
In Ohmme’s second performance in Columbia, songs rich with emotion and a sense of raw showed how genuine the band’s art is and the natural talent each member harbors.
Edited by Brooke Collier | firstname.lastname@example.org