Words & Photos by Ginny Majka
May is here, summer is coming, and a Saturday at Portland House of Music (PHOM) has all my friends grinning, ready to dance. With the weather getting warmer, Portland Maine’s Old Port is bustling and it’s the best time to catch some music. There are two opening acts before Boston based Hayley Jane and the Primates hit the stage. The first opener, Gretchen and the Pickpockets are blowing PHOM away by kindly transporting us to the jazz era with some western swing music. I come to this venue at least once a week, for me and many others, it lives up to its name. It’s home.
After a quick run to the Old Port during setbreak, my friends and I found ourselves back at PHOM; surrounded by a visibly excited community of locals. Moments after walking through the door, Hayley floated onto the stage. Instantly, the venue was filled with a catchy and cheerful melody. While Hayley reached to the sky in her white wardrobe and gracefully danced with her arms, she looked as if she were about to take flight. This live performance was unconventionally engrossing. The songs flowed seamlessly, blending genres & styles while maintaining a constant voice. The opening song, I Can Do It (Poo Jam), held hints of ska. Hurricane Jane exhibited classic rock and roll, Make it Alright flaunted funk, even a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow demonstrated a change of tempo.
Hayley summoned the washboard midway through the set, pairing nicely with Hayley’s dancing. Her movements cast an upbeat spell that urged the crowd to move their bodies. Her dramatic dancing and animated facial expressions manifested a distinctive and raw vibrancy, even during slow-paced songs, which, at times, felt uneven, but undoubtedly powerful.
Towards the end of the show, the band, consisting of Justin Hancock on Guitar, Josh Carter on Bass, Greg Smith on Guitar, and Ryan Clausen on Drums, evolved into a rock and roll jam as Hayley temporarily fled the stage. Hayley reappeared wearing a bold black outfit, the polar opposite of her all-white entry. Her black dress seemed to coincide with the encore, Hey Mister, which merged a Janis Joplin style with southern rock. Her movement seemed match the feel & soul of each song, transitioning from spinning and drifting around the stage at the beginning to jumping and running at the end.
For a relatively newer band, their following is building rapidly. Their first full-length album, Gasoline, was released in 2014 and their second album, We’re Here Now was released in the fall of 2017. Unlike most of the audience, this was my first time seeing them. I feel the crowd’s love for the band. Hayley’s stage presence and liveliness are undoubtedly contagious and her rich, bewitching voice compliment the upbeat sections. Hayley Jane and the Primates are the equivalence of going to see an eccentric rock and roll musical. Despite eclectic styles of music, from funk and soul to southern rock and Americana, their ambiance maintains an energetic consistency. Costume alterations are synchronized with theatrical choreography and correspond to the band’s varying genres. If you are seeking a vigorous visual and audial experience, go dance with Hayley.
Setlist: Poo Jam, In My Mind, PHOM Swamp Mama, Blue Planet, Manacrylic, Rainbow, Madeline, Creatures, Where’d all the Time Go, Plato, Make it Alright, Katrina, More Interesting, Hurricane Jane, Madame Humphrey
Encore- Hey Mister