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jenny toomey
october 20, 2001 • sit & spin, seattle wa
• review by janice • pictures by mike
sorry, this pic is from a very old show!

review: I know this might sound cheesy, but last night was the happiest I've ever seen Jenny Toomey.

Jenny seems to have a nationwide reputation for being...well, a "bitch." And, while I've never bought into the rumours spread from zine to indie-record-store-clerk to basement-record-label-owner, I do have to admit that every time I've met her she's been a little...icy. Plus, her songs have always had a bit of anger, bitterness, a fury behind them. Makes for one intimidating broad, no?

Well, with the release of her first solo album and after the passing of time, Jenny has seemed to re-emerge, much lighter and much happier. She was totally cracking me up last night with her on-stage banter, sharing stories from high school or trading quips with the irrepressible Franklin Bruno on keyboards. She smiled, she laughed, she just seemed to be having a great time!

And the new sound? Again, not quite as bitter and furiously-rocking. Some of the songs were truly melting jazzy torches, with Jenny standing at the mic, holding her guitar, and belting out some lovely, lovely retro-sounding tunes! It truly brought a smoky, jazzy, 50's beatnik-feel to the Sit & Spin last night! Of course, none of that would have been possible without the amazing musicianship of Franklin. Holy cow, who knew he was such an accomplished piano player?! In between songs, he would "tickle the ivories" so to speak. At one point, I leaned over and whispered to Mike, "It feels like we're at Borders Books or something..." His musicianship was just that classical and elegant!

And we can't forget the amazing bassist/cellist Amy Domingues (I hope I'm spelling that right...) formerly from Telegraph Melts. Again, the haunting lilt of her cello brought such an elegance to the songs. And, sadly, I'm not sure of the drummer's name, but he was amazing, too! I love it when musicians break from the norm and tackle their instruments in innovative new ways. Their drummer experimented with different percussion, using a dinner fork at one point, or using almost tribal-sounding beats against Jenny's jazzy songs. It was all just really, really impressive!

And of course, Jenny's gorgeous voice and smart, snappy lyrics. The New York Times wrote something really dead-on about Jenny: "In studio-era Hollywood, Jenny Toomey might have starred in caper movies as a Rosalind Russell type: fast talking, efficient, earthy, with a heart that melts prudently, most of the time." I just think that's so right on!

It cracked me up again because at one point, Jenny was talking about different bumper stickers she and the band had seen at the truck stops on tour. "So, me and Kristin saw this one sticker that said..." and I thought, "Kristin?" and I felt so badly for Jenny, thinking, "Awww, that's so embarassing! She must've accidentally called Amy Kristin, she must miss her old Tsunami/Simple Machines partner so much...it must be weird for her to not have Kristin with her on the road..." And while on the subject of Kristin, Mike and I agreed that her musicianship was sorely missed last night during Jenny's set. It just seems weird to see one without the other. Mike missed her additional guitar work, while my ears were aching to hear her pretty background vocals.

So, in my mind, I think Jenny is suffering from lonely delusions of a phantom Kristin in the tour van. And then Jenny starts talking about how they were having a t-shirt contest at the merchandise table, and someone was wearing one style and Kristin was wearing another style, and they were trying to see who could sell the most of their tee. "Kristin again?" I thought, and I looked over, and, well whaddaya know?! Jenny's not delusional after all! There was her ol' bandmate, with an adorable short cropped haircut, working the merch table! Ha!

And I'm just gonna take a second to say how much I love Kristin! While Jenny might have a reputation (an unfair one, I might add) for being stand-offish, Kristin has always, always, always been so warm and open and friendly. There's just something about that girl! I adore her!

Anyway, go check her out if she's coming through your town! It's a kinder, gentler Jenny for the new millennium.