When asked, “why Tonic Room?” Sweet Mary replied,
“The Tonic Room is cozy and super intimate. It was perfect for my album release party.”
Dimly lit and providing enough space for 120 people shoulder to shoulder, cozy describes the bar well. It is a place where everyone can get involved and talk with the musicians before and after the show, a perfect setting for an artist aspiring to create a bond with current and new fans alike. The Tonic Room’s “stage” is right in your face as you walk in and also just one step up off of the ground as it wraps around the front corner of the room. This setup literally puts the front row right in the middle of the band which creates a certain irreplaceable intimacy only a small space can deliver. I ventured to the back moments before the show and found Mary deep in focus and clutching a giant Nalgene water bottle. The sold out crowd in front of her was eager in anticipation, and it was go time.
Mary approached the stage amidst cheers and hollers from around the bar. She sweetly smiled and grabbed the mic, tapped it, and went through a quick and emotionally charged thank you. Due to hard work, generosity from internet strangers, and the support of many prominent figures associated with music production in Chicago, Mary’s dream of an original album was a reality and this was her opening performance. The band kicked to life and just like that a burst of funky music had the entire Tonic Room getting down.
Sweet Mary’s set list was an upbeat mixture of Mary’s originals and funkified covers of tunes like “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, “Just a Girl” by No Doubt, and “Say my Name” by Destiny’s Child.” The original music, which was written by Mary herself, was most impressive. Connecting with her audience through her meaningful lyrics; Mary’s songs are inspired by real stories on her journey towards a life of music. Songs such as “KnocK” and “My Road” feature Mary hitting high’s and low’s that show off a dynamic, professional range that when paired her guitarist’s intricate solos and the relentless wailing of a trombone and saxaphone horns really brought her album to life. The original theme and direction of each original song resonated with the listeners not only with dance, but with raw emotion, making for a memorable party that the attendees will not soon forget.
Mary could not do her thing without a talented supporting cast on stage. She was being backed by some professional local musicians as well as some members from the band, The Main Squeeze, a staple in the Chicago funk scene. Ben Silverstein played the keyboard, Max Newman was shredding on guitar, Eugene McGhee on bass guitar, Reuben Gingrich on drums, Xavier Galdon on trombone, and Kyle Madsen played saxophone. With commendable precision they played to Mary’s strengths and amplified her abilities in ways that only an experienced group of professionals could do. The excellent support added to the evening in many ways.
My final takeaway from this evening was that of positivity. The music was on point and Mary’s trademark smile became infectious as she realized that she is well on her way down the road that she sings so elegantly about, the road towards the life of a successful musician. Mary will continue to pursue shows in Chicago so expect to hear more from her soon. For now, you can listen to and purchase her album at the following links:
This article was written in collaboration with Soul Source, LLC