Technically, Girlyman opened for Dar Williams Sunday night at the Pabst Theatre, but it seemed - with no disrespect to Dar - it should have been the other way around. Sure, the alt-country Williams is a more seasoned musician -- with an incredible repertoire of songs over the span of nine albums and a beautiful voice -- but after the blow-you-away talent and magical edginess displayed by Girlyman, Williams seemed a bit dated and dull in comparison.
Perhaps we just didn't get enough of Girlyman to feel sated and settle into Williams' set. Most of the Brooklyn-based trio's songs are only three minutes long, and although the "leave 'em laughing" concept is better than the "wear out your welcome" thing, it just wasn't enough. Apparently Williams agreed, because Girlyman joined her on the stage multiple times during her show.
Girlyman features three roommates: Nate Borofsky, Doris Muramatsu and Ty Greenstein, all of whom take turns singing, harmonizing and playing a variety of instruments depending on the song. Second to their incredible harmonizing -- kind of like Peter, Paul & Mary gone wild -- is their sense of humor.
All three of the band members are gay -- and proud . At one point Doris introduced her banjo named "Banjolina" and claimed she is an openly gay banjo who "came out of her case" and is dating her transgendered mandolin. With that, she broke into "Kittery Tide."
The tomboyish Ty referred to "Young James Dean" as her "gender 101 song" - a tune describing falling in love with a straight waitress -- and later talked about her problem with salesperson confusion when she shops in the teen boy's department and salespeople aren't sure which dressing room to unlock. (She solved the problem by wearing a sparkly pink barrette, only when shopping.)
Later, Nate proclaimed it was the one-year anniversary of his feeling down, and although both joking and not joking, he broke into a beautiful, soulful "This Is Me."
Williams' displayed similar qualities in being both quirky and heartfelt, but in a different way. She talked about Alterra Coffee Roasters, where she plays a free show at their lakefront café on Monday at 12:30 p.m., and asked the audience if anyone knew exactly what "Alterra" means and proposed it was a star or a planet of some sort. Huh.
She was funnier when she claimed to be disappointed in herself of late because she was "using fashion as a replacement for her spirituality" and was top-notch righteous when she plugged local musicians Patti Larkin and Peter Mulvey and invited Urban Ecology Center director Ken Leinbach on stage to plug his incredible East Side facility.
Although appearing very dated in her appearance -- gold, balloon-y-legged pants and a Meredith Baxter Birney circa "Family Ties" hairstyle -- she played a plethora of touching songs including "Echoes" (with Girlyman on stage), "Spring Streets," "Iowa" and "February" (the latter two were encores, definitely the highpoint of her set.)
Undoubtedly, parents in the audience appreciated her conversation about becoming a mom. "Parenting is like being a touring artist. You wake up everyday and you're in a totally new place," she said. Later she mentioned that her 18-month-old son was asleep in the hotel next door, and every working mom in the audience could relate.
Although Williams offered a pre-millennium, familiar style and sound, there is simply something fresher and more reflective of the times with the oh-so-smokin' Girlyman. Interestingly, both groups opened with a cover song, which could be metaphorical of Sunday night's concert in general: Girlyman kick-started with Paul Simon's "Born at the Right Time" and Williams' played Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.