Low-key Music from HighMay: Acoustic Concert at the Barge

Low-key Music from HighMay: Acoustic Concert at the Barge

On Saturday, February 26, HighMay came to the Barge Ca­nal Coffee Company as a steady stream of glittering snow fell to the ground. HighMay is the “mu­sical entity” of Jimmy Atto, whose promotional poster claimed that he is “sleeping his way to the top.” Atto, who has long wavy hair and wore a checkered shirt, asked if there were any questions or com­ments partway through his set and purposefully blinded the au­dience with the light shining off his mandolin. He didn’t seem to fit his description on the poster.

HighMay played the acoustic guitar, occasionally switching to the mandolin or adding the harmon­ica. His songs were very mellow. The guitar often sounded like Jack Johnson, though Atto’s voice did not. The songs were also reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band and, with the harmonica added, the Blues Travelers. The quirky ideas in his lyrics were a bit like Ben Folds’s songs. Before one song, for instance, he commented that anytime he can throw an Oreo reference into a song, he does (an “o-r-e-o” came up in the next song). But HighMay’s genre of music is hard to de­scribe; he has a “self-proclaimed diverse style of songs.”

Atto started on time and played his set straight through, commenting that he likes to take his break at the end of the show. The set started with an original HighMay song, “Return,” and continued with “Means.” Next, he played a song about being stressed out that he likes to perform on college campuses. Later on, “North Milwaukee” discussed homesickness and being discon­nected. For a few of his songs, to “mix it up,” HighMay enhanced his performance with the addition of his iPod, which added a beat behind his acoustic guitar. The man­dolin was introduced to the audience (Liter­ally: “Mandolin, audience. Audience, man­dolin.”) in a cover of Train’s “Soul Sister.” While this song is always fun and catchy, Atto was clearly still perfecting this particu­lar performance, and consequently slowed the song down a bit too much. HighMay’s set also included a ro­mantic number called “10 O’Clock News,” “Dust” (with his iPod) and “Collar.” Atto’s subsequent conversa­tion about how people used to pop their col­lars may lead one to believe that he is not well acquainted with Colgate’s campus.

HighMay was a tal­ented guitarist who put on a great performance. The only thing lacking in his set was strong lyr­ics. Atto seemed to be putting storytelling to music more than he was creating a well-phrased song. Though there were some wonderful excep­tions, lyrics like “I contend that you’re pretty cool for a number of reasons” and “then I met this cool girl, her jeans were blue” plagued Atto’s songs. For all the beauty of HighMay’s music, his lyrics often seemed to lack significance.

HighMay seemed to be at home in the Barge, noting that he was playing at the Barge to get away from clichés and that he likes the “feel and comfort of this place.” Likewise, the audience seemed to enjoy HighMay’s mellow, melodic presence. Atto promised to come back to the Barge in the next year or so. Those still in the area should be on the lookout for a great coffeehouse performance.