"If you want tragedy and glory, then this is my story." It's been sort of a mixed blessing to see Mackenzie MacBride blogging more these days. What I like most about Mackenzie is her storytelling, her anecdotes, her sense of humour and her drama. So that translates well online. She is nothing if not vivacious.
I say mixed blessing because it's through her blog that I learned that her band, Mackenzie MacBride and the Supermodel Syndrome, had called it quits. I've been a fan for the last two years but I think, sadly, Ottawa failed to understand the Supermodel Syndrome. Mackenzie's mix of sincerity and temerity, of high drama and high camp, the relentless humour and the wonderful melodic lines wove themselves into a complex and engrossing tapestry. Those who were fans became superfans, and I often saw the same faces at her shows: at Dekcuf, at Barrymores, at SAW.
From our conversations throughout the summer, I could tell that Mackenzie was becoming frustrated with a fan base she saw as stagnant, venues that were pay-to-play and bring-your-own-audience, promoters who refused to give a careful listen to her music and a city that had turned a deaf ear. Although she was feeling the increasing pressure of her day job (and intensive French-language training), she was also experimenting more wildly with the performative aspects of the Supermodel Syndrome.
That ended this fall. As she says:
"I wanted the Super Model Syndrome to go out with a big bang rather than a fizz. So, I chose Pop Montreal, 2007 as the the gig that would be our last show as a band. And what a bang it was.
"I will now return to my roots, and simultaneously move forward, by working as a one woman show.
"I am actively seeking to play only a limited number of shows in 2008. So, if you have an audience that would appreciate "heart music" (honesty, humility, stories, simplicity and soul) then please do get in touch with me to further discuss. In a band and want to book a gig together? Also worth chatting about."
Audiences failed to grasp her voice's double hook. It's a voice she herself compares to Tiny Tim and Morgan Fairchild, a voice which is instantly recognizable and not easy to process. It is not a saccharine voice; in fact, it's rather pointed. That vocal quality, which was sometimes exacerbated by nerves, drove the less conscientious away. In later shows, she was experimenting with performing in a lower register.
It was a barrier which Mackenzie might have overcome with time. But since some of her band was made up of "hired hands", promoting her music proved expensive. Shows, like a poorly attended new year's gig at the Avante Garde, were a net loss for Mackenzie. Those losses were not sustainable.
Performing solo is probably a good move for Mackenzie, although I will miss the lushness -- decadence even -- of the Supermodel Syndrome. I've heard there might be other collaborations in the works and that is some solace. And I've made no secret of my hope that she would write a musical, perhaps using some of the songs we've come to know of hers -- "Hollywood in the Morning", "I'm Not Marylin Monroe", "Curtains Came Down" and the relentlessly hummable "This is my Story" -- and all of her trademark humour.
Good luck Mackenzie MacBride, whatever you do.