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SHANNON AND THE CLAMS

May 28 @ 8:00 pm

 |  $27.50

Details

Date:
May 28
Time:
8:00 pm
Cost:
$27.50
Event Category:
Website:
https://www.sinclaircambridge.com/events/detail/527577

Venue

The Sinclair
52 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States
Phone:
(617) 547-5200
Website:
http://www.sinclaircambridge.com
About

In August 2022, Shannon Shaw’s world was turned inside out. With mere weeks to go until their wedding, the singer’s fiancé, Joe Haener, died in a horrific car accident in front of his family’s vegetable farm in Oregon.

 

It was a devastating loss that hit Shannon & The Clams with cataclysmic force. Shaw’s bandmates, guitarist Cody Blanchard, keyboard player Will Sprott, and drummer Nate Mahan, had also grown close to Haener, a drummer and fixture of the Bay Area music scene. They canceled shows and rallied around Shaw as fans reached out to show their support. Shaw spent her nights with Blanchard and his family or with the Haeners, finding comfort in community. She adopted a fluffy dog named Spanky-Joe. She moved out of the Portland apartment where she and Haener had been living. She fearlessly chronicled the whole experience online.

 

“Losing Joe made me unafraid of so many things,” Shaw says. “I have a lot less fear. It’s given me new perspective. Baring my soul is so much less scary than it would’ve been before.”

 

Amid this overwhelming sense of grief, melodies and lyrics began to flow out of Shaw. Instagram posts about her relationship with Haener became the building blocks of new compositions. Her Clams bandmates were also reeling and writing their own new songs. From the shock and trauma of that tragedy comes Shannon & The Clams’ latest album, The Moon Is InThe Wrong Place, a powerful exploration of loss, time, love, and resilience that stands as the beloved garage band’s most ambitious, emotionally searing recording to date. 

 

In preparing to record, The Clams passed demos back and forth for months and,uncharacteristically for them, jammed on unfinished riffs to see what would happen. “Shannon and I usually write separately, and we usually bring pretty crafted, finished songs,” says Blanchard, who developed tennis elbow after their marathon rehearsal sessions. When Shaw struggled to find the right chords to go with her melodies, she obtained an Omnichord — an electronic instrument with a built-in set of chords and rhythms — and unlocked a new creative palette. In 2023, they returned to Nashville to record with longtime collaborator Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound Studios — who oversaw 2018’s Onion and 2021’s Year Of The Spider  andcaptured what they’d been creating.

 

The results show the group ascending to new creative highs, while still weaving in the classic garage-rock and girl-group sounds that have long been a hallmark of their work. This time around, they venture to deeper, farther out musical locations than before and bring a new sophistication and intricacy to their arrangements, plus they get an assist from pro wrestling great Mick Foley on handclaps. Meanwhile, Shaw’s powerful voice veers between sweetness and snarl — sometimes within the space of a single lyric.

 

The Moon Is In The Wrong Place opens with “The Vow,” a horn-laced number that Shaw wrote with the intention of surprising Haener on their wedding day. “I hated the idea of him never getting to hear it,” she says. “What do you do with this depressing song that never got to have its life?” Shaw wondered if it could serve as an introduction to the rest of the album, and her bandmates heartily agreed, particularly after hearing her powerful performance. “Every time I listen to it, I’m shaken by the beauty of Shannon’s voice and the way it’s imbued with all the complex feelings and emotions,” Mahan says. “It makes the hair stand up on my arms.”

 

“The Vow” is a brief glimpse of possibility and hope for what might’ve been, one that is quickly torn to shreds. It’s followed by “The Hourglass,” a product of the band’s jam sessions. Intense and unsettling, its hypnotic, lurching groove and cascading organ runs have a touch of off-kilter Krautrock in them; it also offers a look at the volcano of emotion churning inside Shaw’s body.

 

“It encapsulates this entire time period for me, but it also really reflects how I feel,” Shaw says. “It really captures the agony, strain, confusion, and monotony from suffering this loss.” “It’s the chaos of sudden, unexpected death, and the way you have to endure time after that,” Blanchard adds. 

 

Blanchard also steps up to the mic for lead vocal duties on several tracks that address his experience with loss and grief, including the strutting, fuzzed-out “Big Wheel” and the Northern soul-styled lament “What You’re Missing.” Sprott even makes a rare appearance as lead singer, describing an otherworldly encounter in the trippy tune “UFO.”

 

We all felt the urgency of making something that reckoned with this meteor that smashed into our planet,” Sprott says. “This is the most focused record we’ve ever done, as far as everything coming from a singular traumatic event.”

 

The ominous title phrase came from something Haener said to Shaw not long before theaccident. 

 

“He was trying to ask me what was going on astrologically. He said, ‘What’s going on in the stars right now?’ He was basically asking if Mercury was in retrograde,” Shaw says. “But he was like, ‘What is it you say? The moon is in the wrong place?’ I was like, ‘That is so weird and cool.’ And he turned out to be right — the moon IS in the wrong place.” The title track distillsthat feeling into a disorienting swirl of psychedelic guitar, buzzing organ, and frantic bongos.

 

The moon, the stars, and all of the cosmos served as signposts and symbols for the Clams, and those heavenly bodies are recurring images in the new songs. Blanchard recalls measuring time in those early days by looking at the night sky. “The moon became this fucked-up clock for me,” he says. “Some amount of time would pass and I would see the moon again and be like, it’s a full moon again already?’ I would remember right after Joe died what phase the moon was in. It felt really twisted. At the same time, it was like a reminder of how time is passing and you don’thave any control of that. It’s going whether you want it to go or not.”

 

There are many moments of staggering beauty on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place. “Real Or Magic” is lush and dreamy, written about a vision where Haener appeared to Shaw bathed in light, and for a moment it felt like none of the horror had been real. In “Oh So Close, Yet So Far,” Shaw feels him in the breeze, the stars, and the trees, understanding that now she shares him with everyone. “I’ve had moments that have literally taken my breath away,” Shaw says, “It’s like a release of his energy that opened me up to this extreme beauty that I had not been able to feel in the same way.”

 

“So Lucky” grew out of a mantra Shaw was repeating in the weeks after Haener’s death, and the lush arrangement shimmers with sadness and gratitude in equal measure as she recounts her favorite little details. “I was really lucky for a really long time,” Shaw says. “It would be easy to just dwell on all these bad things — and it’s a lot of bad things — but for my sanity and my quality of life, I have to find the bright spots.”

 

Another bright spot was found at the site of the tragedy, in the bean fields at Haener’s family farm. Shaw would congregate in the fields with the family and friends at night, drinking wine and looking up at the stars, sensing Haener’s presence in the fragrant flowers and the brilliant sunsets. The experience became one of the most uplifting moments on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place, as “Bean Fields” feels like a hard-earned, if fleeting, moment of joy complete with a rousing communal singalong. 

 

“It feels so good to feel good for even one second. I’ve learned to embrace that,” Shaw says. “Being in the bean fields and spending that time with his family was joyous. It was connecting to Joe. We were doing stuff he loved. The only place I felt like I could find him or feel him was in nature.” Later, in the quirky “Dalís Clock,” she finds comfort in imagining him not at the pearly gates, but everywhere — freed from any sort of physical constraints. 

 

In one of the album’s most empathetic moments, Blanchard came up with “Golden Brown.” He’d written it about going swimming in the Columbia with Shaw and Haener and then returning not long after the accident. “It’s referring to Cody watching me sitting out there in the water and how everything is just different,” Shaw says. “Everything looks the same but everything has changed. I loved the idea of writing about one moment and comparing it to one moment a month before.”

 

Ultimately, Shaw finds something like acceptance. In the album-closing “Life Is Unfair,” she spells it out: “Life is unfair, yet beautiful. I see it now.” Existence is both bitter and sweet, sunshine and rain, dark and light, life and death. It’s a little bit of everything. Sometimes the moon is in the wrong place. Knowing that has made her and The Clams stronger.

 

“In a weird way, my new lack of fear goes with a feeling of being galvanized and feeling like I have a new armor,” Shaw says. “I’ve played a lot of shows since Joe passed, and those are some of the best shows we’ve ever played. I’m very open now and I always feel like Joe is supporting me through it.”