A red light shines on Mackenzie Scott’s face and she stares straight ahead. As she sings the chorus of “A Proper Polish Welcome,” blue-lit fog rolls through from the back of the stage, hiding the drummer and sweeping past Scott’s outline. The scene takes the crowd into a new dimension where only Scott’s meditative harmonies and careful changes of chords matter.
At the Rock & Roll Hotel on Tuesday night, Scott performed as Torres for a packed house of eager, captivated concertgoers. With her smooth vocals slightly but tastefully covered under mixed layers of dark and bellowing instrumentation, Scott narrated songs inspired by daily observations of friends, family and strangers.
“I’m just kind of pulling from the people that I observe daily,” Scott said backstage before her performance, “I’m always looking for the human element to each person’s story, the thing that makes that story universally relatable.”
Her songs resonated with the audience, a crowd of individuals sharing a commonality of deep appreciation and apparent knowledge of music despite the large diversity of ages represented. They held on to each note as the electronic keyboard outro of a track made its way away from the ears, only then clapping heavily in gratitude from the calculated and magical instrumentation happening on stage, the thoughts from Scott’s mind being shared.
“That’s what people are picking up on, is the universality of the story. The whole point of doing it is to connect and to have people find themselves in the songs,” Scott said.
Scott and her live band delivered a set of mostly songs off her 2015 album, Sprinter. With the intensity in Scott’s lyrics paired with her guitar spouting through intervals and chords, Torres told a story in the way only she can. Even with all of the thought that goes into the instrumental parts Torres creates, the lyrics seem to mean the most to both her and her listeners.
“I consider myself to be a writer more than anything,” Scott said.
After choosing the guitar as a way to present her writing along with the discovery of her vocal talents later in high school, she decided that “music was a more easily digestible format” to express emotion than writing short stories or poetry professionally was. But, she always kept the process of storytelling from her writing in her music.
“I think when I’m writing I’m asking myself if what I’m writing can stand alone as something published in a poetry book or stand alone as a novel in that form. I think by thinking that way, I’m putting the most emphasis on the storytelling, on the lyricism,” Scott said.
On stage in matching coveralls, the band filled around Scott’s music with vibrating low-fi instrumental coatings from guitarist Cameron Kapoor and an ethereal backup vocal harmony from Erin Manning on keyboard.
Scott’s movements were alien. She swayed violently to the beat, strummed mechanically with her fingers and moved her mouth with the chords. As they played the bridge of their fourth song, “Sprinter,” Scott sang the lyrics with an angry and cruel harshness.
“Sprinter is really just about coming full circle and trying to escape where I come from only to come back around and find myself where I started but re-examining it all through a different lens,” Scott said.
Scott started the first verse of “Strange Hellos” alone with her muted chord progression, drummer Dominic Cipolla’s beat entering after a pause along with the distorted, super loud instrumentation of the others. The garage-inspired cymbals carved out the rhythm as Scott played and hummed to her guitar riff.
“Just the natural progression of the shows was that they were getting louder and they were getting more dynamic, they were harder hitting,” Scott said, “So when I wrote the second album, I was keeping the live show in mind and I was already considering what we had done after touring with the first record and thinking about how the new record would probably be more sonically dynamic.”
After the first few verses of “Strange Hellos,” Scott let out a scream and yelled an insult into the microphone. The performance was the epitome Scott’s strength in vocalization and creativity in live arrangement, particularly in this new album. As Torres progresses in her musical endeavors, her sound will shift and transform as it has with this new tour, her ingenuity feeding and reacting to what she observes and makes.
All Photos: Everly Jazi