By Hannah Zaic
It’s pretty subdued at Milkboy Coffee the night Rachel Platten comes to town.
The crowd is doing what coffee shop crowds do best: chat, listen, chat, sip, listen. Chat. Her opener, a very capable young man with an acoustic guitar, finishes the opening set. His departure from the stage is met with ample applause which dies down when the house radio comes back on. Platten is in the back of the room consorting with her drummer and soon heads to the stage. As the striking blond steps up the patrons are already paying just a bit more attention. She grins while arranging the appropriate wires, adjusts her piano stool and cracks inaudible jokes to her fellow musician. Finally settled, she looks into the audience like you would expect she would an old dear friend that has been missed. A wide, warm and genuine smile across her face, she introduces herself along with her percussionist and the show begins.
When her clear-as-a-bell voice hits the air the onlookers seem almost dumbfounded, as if whatever it was they were expecting, this wasn’t it. The music fills out the room from the floor to the high ceilings and we are at it’s mercy, surrounded, with no escape from this positively infectious piano pop. The elements of her influences permeate the tools of our capture. Like the bright joyful energy of so many Beatles songs, the strong, quirky feminine vocals of Regina Spektor, undeniable hooks of Madonna and a refreshing dash of soul, courtesy of Sam Cooke. At the end of the first song the room erupts as the crowd shows their appreciation through enthusiastic claps, hoots and hollers. Platten just keeps smiling, humbly thanks them and proceeds to perpetuate the same ‘wow’ factor for the remainder of her set.
Her songs have a continuous theme of joy and positivity. It’s hard not smiling when hearing them (check out “Nothing Ever Happens” and “Honey Bee” ). “I believe that pop music can be intelligent, and well written, but also upbeat and full of joy and love,” Rachel tells Mara Siegler of HuffingtonPost.com. “I just want to bring love. I want everyone to feel like they just got a giant boost of adrenaline and oxygen and Prozac after a show, and just feel good.”
The Boston born, classically trained pianist fell in love with the stage when she was 19 during a semester abroad at University of the West Indies. It was there that she joined a Soca band that thought enough of her skills to invite her on tour with them. “The plan was to intern at a record label, study international relations, and work on my thesis of globalization’s effect on the music industry. I ended up staying through the beginning of the summer after meeting a band that invited me to tour with them….my first real show was in front of 10,000 people.” But that was just the beginning for Rachel, she would go on to share the stage with such highly respectable acts as The Strokes, Rusted Root, and Living Colour.
The perfect image of a self starter, she cites the 2009 independent planning of her first extensive U.S. solo tour as the accomplishment that she is most proud of in her career so far: “I sat in a coffee shop for two weeks straight, all day, every day, and contacted clubs and just got to work.” Having developed a substantial following in New York City, where she lives, conquering the rest of country seemed like the next logical step. Fast forward two years and Rachel is still touring much to the delight of fans all across the U.S. and beyond. This month it is being announced that Rachel has signed on with Rock Ridge Music/Warner Music Group and a full length album is due out this Spring.
At the end of her show at Milkboy, Rachel steps down from the stage still smiling wide, exuding gratitude, as if the room had given her a gift. Meanwhile the assorted inhabitants of the space go back to their chat, sip, chat routine, released from her spell. The songs will linger in my head for days and I wonder what the world would be like with a few more Rachel Plattens in it.