review/photos by Ziggy Merritt
This past Friday at World Cafe Live marked the release of June Divided’s lead vocalist, Melissa Menago’s debut album, Little Crimes. Performing in the more intimate setting of the venue’s upper bar area, Menago’s voice managed to seize the attention of a restless crowd as she performed favorites from her past and new gems from her present.
Opening for Menago’s anticipated performance was Jon Masters of Brooklyn-based indie rockers, Lion in the Mane. Masters’ voice and at-ease composure on both guitar and keyboards did not go unnoticed as he stayed cool, crooning through the humidity that hung in the air that evening. Marring this was the all-too noisome element of the crowd that drowned out any nuance Masters’ might have been trying to translate to those in attendance. While some of this can no doubt be attributed to the obnoxious heat and the packed-to-bursting room, there was a lack of etiquette on the part of the audience that was not just rude, but disappointingly distracting.
Yet as Menago took the stage later that evening, there was a definite hush if occasional awe that calmed the room. Christmas lights and vintage lamps decorated the set, further provoking a sense of home and belonging that connected with Menago’s own practiced songwriting chops sharpened from years spent alongside her friends and bandmates in June Divided.
It was no great surprise then as those same bandmates – Chris Kissel, Keith Gill, and Lenny Sasso – joined her for acoustic renditions of new June Divided material as the night continued. But more than this it was endearing to see not just them but notably Menago’s own friends and family there to support and sing alongside her. Masters himself later came up to the stage to shape that same audience of devoted fans into a melodic chorus in one of the night’s definite highlights alongside the encore performance of the Kenny Loggins hit, “Danger Zone” (Michelle’s admitted reference to the television series, Archer). To see everything and everyone come together on that hot July night gave strength and promise to one of Philly’s brightest and humble performers.