It's unwise to attempt entry into any music venue with illegitimate identification. We’d further warn against handing your ill-gotten identity document to the eagle-eyed, muscle-bound doormen of the Nightingale Room, who are trained to spot a false ID even before you pull it from your billfold.
The only possible exception to this rule is if Louisiana songstress Maggie Koerner is in town and playing Nightingale, as she will be tonight. Turns out she might even have a lead on where you could find such contraband.
“I've only been to Houston a few times. The first time I ever went was to get a fake ID at [age] 18,” the New Orleans-based singer admits. “The second time was to perform at the Nightingale, and we had an amazing audience that night. We've played there one other time, and it is always such a fun time. The people in the audience are always so attentive and friendly.”
Once again, we must recommend not breaking any laws to get into tonight’s free show; but those familiar with this emerging talent understand why going to such lengths is so tempting. Koerner is a skilled songwriter with a growing discography full of evocative songs.
And, there’s her voice. Good voices beg comparisons, the tired practice of “she sounds like So-And-So,” but great ones beg questions. For instance, “When did you realize you could stop people in their tracks with your vocal prowess?” and “How does a voice like that happen?”
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“I opened my mouth at some point as a small child,” she says. “I've been singing unprofessionally for as long as I can remember, professionally since I graduated college at 22. I knew I could sing before anyone could! I've always believed in my abilities and have just been searching down the right opportunities.”
Those opportunities have come quickly for Koerner, particularly since she left home in Shreveport and established New Orleans as her career hub. She’s worked with acts like The Revivalists, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule and Charles Bradley, and played events like ACL and the Pemberton Music Festival. Most notably, she was lead singer for veteran jam band Galactic from 2013 to 2014, a career turn that is bound to produce impressive new music when Koerner releases a new EP later this year.
“I gained so much knowledge of the road, touring and about showmanship," she says. "They are some of the best musicians I've ever played with, so I had to be on their level as their lead singer. It was also so much fun to be playing that kind of music and dancing, since typically my music is more serious and dark.”
The songs, specifically those found on her 2013 album Neutral Ground, are informed by an interesting dichotomy Koerner has lived, a sort of "science versus religion" existence. A product of Louisiana’s Catholic schools, she majored in psychology in college and says she culls useful bits from both fields of thought for her songwriting, applying their principles to her burgeoning music career.
“Being raised Catholic definitely shaped who I am in my morals, and that good ol’ guilt that comes with the religion," Koerner says. "I got over the guilt part with the help of New Orleans, a place that just wants people to live happily and fully. Being a psych major influenced how I deal with people on a daily basis. I gained a lot of awareness of how people act and react in life and where the root of that may come from. You can hear the influence of Catholicism and my psych major in my lyrics if you read closely enough.”
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Start anywhere you’d like, but if you need a primer before tonight’s show, “Sirens” and “Lee Malone” from Neutral Ground are a good foundation to build on. You might avoid listening with your significant other. Lyrics like “Open your eyes and now what do you see?/Would you be so damn happy waking up next to me?” delivered with the slow burn of Koerner’s sultry voice might derail all your plans for the evening.
It’s music for grown folks, sizzling stuff that would earn Koerner some ruler slaps from the nuns back home.
“My first live performance was in middle school, in a Veggie Tales-themed play at school," she offered. "I got the lead solo and my music teacher at the time, Stacy Hood, saw my gift and nurtured it. My mom was so shocked that day when I opened my mouth and sang. She had no idea. My parents had just heard me singing in my room with my tapes.”
Finally, there’s this – since Nightingale keeps its doors open to attract lucky passersby, you’ll be able to hear Koerner from curbside if you have no other choice. No ID required.
Maggie Koerner and Otenki perform at 9 p.m. tonight at the Nightingale Room, 308 Main. Free.