Mary Jennings & Ali Aslam

July 23rd, 2021 7pm   Stage 2

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Mary Jennings

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It takes a lot of life experience to craft engaging, universal song lyrics—and singer, songwriter and musician Mary Jennings has had more than a lion’s share. How’s this for a start: stops as a teacher, aerobics instructor, clothing retailer, bartender, luggage saleswoman, paranormal researcher and now mother. Add to that the early loss of her mom , and there are plenty of stories to share. Jennings states that music has kept her sane. Not surprisingly, her songs often possess a modicum of sadness and darkness, about which she says, “I share these emotions with others because I know so many have felt the same things. If I can create melodies and deliver words that express their feelings, I’ve done my job.”

With an enormous singing voice that transcends her small frame, an extraordinary rock sound full of robust piano hooks, and a one-of-a-kind storytelling ability drawn from a remarkable and emotional history, Mary has carved out her own unique niche in the industry by doing things her way.

Born into a family with strong musical roots, she began playing piano at five and has fond memories of her paternal grandparents teaching her vocal harmonies at a young age – a skill that is very evident in her work today. Mary’s adolescent and teenage years were marked by her development on piano and the cultivation of her vocal ability through many school plays and musicals, but it was the sudden death of her mother in 2001 that prompted a seismic surge in her musical expression.

“When people ask me why I’m a musician, I tell them that it’s largely because music is my therapy,” she says. “That entire notion really began with the death of my mom. My dad offered to help me record an album shortly after her death, and the experience of writing about what I was going through at the time went a long way towards helping me cope.” It was on that album that Mary established her creative foundation, writing music that immediately bonds her to the listener in a genuine way. That openness, and the raw emotion inherent in both her writing and voice, has been a cornerstone of her work ever since. “I share these emotions with others because I know so many have felt the same things. If I can create melodies and deliver words that express their feelings, I’ve done my job.”

While the music alone makes Mary Jennings an artist that fans can easily relate to, her somewhat quirky personality and a diverse range of interests have also gone a long way towards building a bond with her fan base. An avid horror movie fan, she has more than 400 fright flicks in her own private collection and openly admits that being scared and thrilled is probably her biggest geek factor. Her love for thrifting and secondhand clothing, something she learned from her mother, is a major influence on her vintage style and the inspiration behind the enormously popular clothing swap shows that she has hosted in a number of U.S. cities. Mary has turned her unique style, love of thrifting, and drive to create, No Sass Creations, through which she makes and sells bolo ties and other upcycled accessories. However, the most important aspect of her life is her daughter, Eliza, who is a huge inspiration in her new release, “Matriarch.”

“I don’t want my fans thinking of me as just another musician asking them to come to shows or buy music,” she remarks. “It’s more important, and fun, to engage with them and shine a little light on my hobbies and personal life because at the end of the day, I’m really not much different from any of them.”

Mary’s strong work ethic and commitment to her craft has paid off handsomely in recent years. A Casio-sponsored artist, she was featured in an online advertising campaign for the company’s new line of keyboards in 2011 and her song “The Darkness” was placed in the Lionsgate motion picture "Devil Seed" (ironically, a horror film). Several of her songs have been featured during the final dances on Lifetime’s tv show “Dance Moms.” Since then, she has had more placements on a WWE documentary, “Roadtrip Nation,” The Jim Jeffries Show and many other shows, trailers, and movies.

Mary has organized a number of extensive tours as well, opening for artists such as Jeffrey Gaines, Mike Doughty, Teddy Geiger, Ryan Cabrera, and Rachel Yamagata, and she has appeared at several major festivals including CMJ and South by Southwest. She often treats fans to a unique stage set-up when performing on her own, prominently featuring a loop pedal that she uses to effortlessly layer rhythmic beats and beautiful background harmonies over her unmistakably unique piano playing and vocals.

Whether you experience Mary Jennings on stage or on one of the handful of albums she has released, you’re witnessing a very special artist who has confidently found her voice over the course of a long journey.

Ali Aslam

The Last American is the debut Album from Brookyn based artist Ali Aslam. The songs explore questions of identity, belonging, and perspective--not just as independent concepts but as interrelated factors that inform our relationships to culture, each other, and ourselves. The tracks find their foundation in Aslam’s examination of his own identity as a Pakistani-American Muslim with a strong but complicated relationship to the mythology of American culture.

“Anyone with a background as hyphenated as mine--Muslim-American, Pakistani-American--will try and take ownership of that mythology, but also be fundamentally aware that our relationship to those things is qualified, somehow ‘other.’ It applies to my relationship with myself as well,” said Aslam. “I can love all of these things about myself, and still feel, or be made to feel, like I don’t have a right to. I think with this record, I'm asking if everybody feels this way.”

Aslam defines The Last American as a “supersonic folk” record. While the songs nod to American pop culture’s most recognizable sonic moments, he’s created a genre of his own, combining American folk, rock, and pop into a sound that supersedes traditional classification. The album, recorded in Brooklyn and Queens, traverses a wide territory in its twelve songs. At the heart, though, lies the formative expectations and experiences of the American Dream, in all its complexities, fulfillments, and shortcomings.