In downtown Silver Spring, MD – Quarry House Tavern lives among the high rise office buildings and ever expanding apartment complexes as a relic. It is one of a few spaces that feels old, having been a part of the community for several years - the type of friendly dive where local regulars collect and commune with the bartenders and other patrons alike. After being rebuilt from a devastating fire in 2018, it continues to harvest a connection to the local Silver Spring community. On a busy Thursday night, I was able to catch local act Spring Silver along with the co-headlining Maneka and Pictoria Vark. It was a small, comfortable show that reflected the profound sense of connection shared with its host venue.
I am, unfortunately, a “constantly running late” kind of person who hasn’t yet found the right adjustments to their less than desirable traits. However, on this speedy night, I was able to swing by around a song or two after opening act Spring Silver had started. From the moment one stepped into the back room, you could hear the distorted guitar and pounding drums reverberating off the wall. Bandleader K Nkanza and the rest of the group were mid jam, energy bounding through the eager crowd. As they transitioned into the opening riff of “Little Prince” the excited twisting and turning of limbs coordinated into a singular force. All heads moving as one to the songs bounce, the urge to move was palpable. The band ripped through “ Set Up A Camera” and after some playful banter with the crowd and sound person closed with “O Kristi”. For the last song, Nkanza ditched the guitar and swayed along with crowd, unifying movements in connection with music everlasting.
People hastily returned from the bar as Maneka began the opening notes of “Zipline”. The more grunge leaning burner was met with a communal sway and led right into the more straightforward “Bluest Star”. The latter amped up in tempo and allowed the crowd to pick up the energy to its previous peaks. Over the driving rhythm section, vocalist/guitarist Devin McKnight matched a descending guitar line with his vocal melody - a cool detail carried over from the record and well executed live. While Spring Silver had a more earnest enthusiasm to their performance, Maneka felt like hanging with the cool older friend. McKnight’s wry, witty humor was disarming, mixed with the technical prowess behind the music shows the experience the group has with their live show. The band sped through an ultra short grindcore sounding bit, that McKnight jokingly remarked was a crowd favorite. One could take this as candidly true given the roaring response from the crowd. Late set track “The Glow Up” displayed the Maneka’s dominant rhythm section both bass and drums adding tight, intricate fills to the song’s texture. Last song ended with a fuzzed out guitar solo, a true crowd pleaser, into a quick bonus track - real rock star shit.
Final act Pictoria Vark began as the regular bar crowd began to thin. The show crowd as wide eyed as when the show began, settling into Vark’s intimate stylings. A well deserved artist on the rise - Victoria Park has transitioned their live act into a dynamic wave, riding the ups and downs of their emotional songwriting. I was lucky enough to see Park a few years ago with Jhariah and Crash Nebula and the confidence she’s gained as a performer made her set a warm, pleasant surprise.
Vark opened with “Twin”, the gentle opening to her fantastic debut The Parts I Dread. The buoyant energy from early in the show calming along with Park’s melodic bass lines. The band rocked through “I Can’t Bike” and “Wyoming”, the three piece expertly conveying the dynamics of the latter to an audience near leaning in with anticipation. As they made their way through “Demarest”, Park began to be affected by the overwhelming amount of pollen not unfamiliar to DMV residents. Unfortunately, their set needed to end one song early but not after an otherwise inviting, embracing performance.
It is telling that very few audience members left the show room until the very end. The togetherness shared by the music of the three performing artists was enthralling. If you have the chance to catch Maneka and Pictoria Vark on tour or otherwise it is well recommended.