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Shannon Lay

December 13, 2016

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December 13, 2017 - San Francisco, CA

The Witch of the Shipping Container Garden

It’s Tuesday, December 13th and Shannon Lay of Feels — a punked out girl group that hosted last October – — is about to perform her solo set. is an unconventional music company based in San Francisco that handpicks new and original artists to livestream in offbeat spots, specifically chosen for the group’s feel and style — giving the online audience a musical viewing experience unlike any other. For Shannon’s performance they decided on a tiny, seemingly claustrophobic shipping container previously used for a Tarzan Movie promotional video; a miniature jungle awaiting the arrival of one musical mamma-jamma. It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk getting up there, either. The container sits upon another container, which Shannon and just two camera people had to scramble up to get to. And even then, the space was too cramped for all three of them so she performed the entire set alone inside while the stream was recorded by the camera, outside.
“Hello, I’m Shannon. I’m gonna play some music today,” she says. And with a quirky, if not completely sarcastic smile: “Let’s have some fun!” 

She begins her first song with a melodic finger-picking progression, which she layers with high-pitched scales; almost reminiscent of chiming clocks in a big, echoey building. The camera captures her feet, revealing the pedals she’s working to loop the sounds. 

She takes me on a sweet, wonderland-type guitar journey, through lush greenery and twinkling lights, when all of a sudden her voice makes its entrance. 

It is clear, but soft, relaxing but intriguing, heavy but light — all at the same time.

Like bubbles of air floating towards the surface of the water.

Her eyes stay closed. I can see the muscles in her forehead creasing, contorting from the emotional response to whatever is happening behind her shut lids. 

It’s hard to decipher all of the lyrics, through the dense reverb clinging to the sounds. 

I think I’ll just stay here in my garden / The flowers are all weeds / There’s no fruit on the trees / But it suits me just fine.

As I listen, I feel like a wide-eyed child in an enchanted forest, sitting legs crossed, looking up at a Cantadora, an oral storyteller. 

The shots taken by the camera fade in and out: her fingers, her black boots, the concentration playing across her face — an artist, lost in her own spinning performance.  

*Abrupt and loud SCREEEEECH*

I am snapped back to reality at the end of each song, when she slides her capo in preparation for the next, the amps still buzzing.

But not to fret, (pun absolutely intended), as soon as I think I’ve been robbed of sound-canal euphoria, I am lulled back into my awe-stricken, childlike daze as the music begins again. 

“This song is for everyone going through a tough time right now because it’s been a hectic year. It’s called All This Life Goin Down. It’s about the wonder that we keep going and still do it. I’m proud of all of you,” She declares kindly. 

At first, I couldn’t help but think her appearance versus her music was somewhat contradictory.

She rocks a slap of red locks with the sides of her head shaved, cat-like black eyeliner, a septum piercing, some funky pants and kick-ass boots. A statement, for sure. 

Her solo music, on the other hand seemed just the opposite: soft, slow, calculated, well kempt, almost shy at times.

But as the set progressed, I realized it wasn’t a contrast at all — it was perfectly fitting — she’s a goddamn steampunk fairy queen!

“This song’s about a witch,” she says. 
(Or she’s a witch. Either works).

There are mirrors set up behind her in the container, making the space look less claustrophobic than I initially anticipated and more personal, like I’m right there with her. I can’t help but tumble into those mirrors as her lyrics lead me to visions of a steampunk, fairy, queen, witch-woman composing in her garden and effortlessly plucking at the heartstrings of music lovers like me.

The things that fear can do, the last lines from the bruja tune, descending like a broomstick from the sky. 

“Two and a half more songs! Thanks for watching, This is awesome. Oh! There are trees in here — crazy,” She chuckles. 
It suddenly dawns on me why, perhaps, chose this unusual location for Shannon: although her music is not on the soundtrack of the new Tarzan movie, it could very easily be used in another film with similar scenery.Throughout my listening experience, her soundscape triggered rich imagery, complete in its earthiness. 

“Have a good day, wherever you are,” she peeps into the mic and proceeds to play the half of the “two and a half songs” reference earlier — a short and hypnotic guitar progression to end an all around magical set. 

“Thanks so much, stay safe, hang in there, guys!” She finally looks up with a big, witchy grin, right into the lens. 

- Nikki Zambon