Review: Sawyer rocks Back Alley with indie pop tunes

The Union Board of Governors broke out the tea lights for Sawyer’s performance. 

Donuts and latte fixings lined the bar. Harried techies ran cords between amps. Student chatter was at a low roar. The merch table was already set up. My expectations were sky high.

For those of us who, like yours truly, had never been introduced to Sawyer before the show, here’s some context: Sawyer is an indie pop group consisting of musicians Emma Harvey and Kel Taylor. Think CVURCHES meets Simon and Garfunkel. Harvey and Taylor are both guitarists, singers, songwriters and graduates of Belmont University. The two are best friends and watching their dynamic was just as entertaining as listening to their music.

Sawyer performed a handful of original songs (now available on Spotify) intermixed with unique covers (their take on “Shake It Off” in a minor key jumps to mind). For me, the highlights of the night were their originals “The Last Thing” and “Emotional Girls.” Harvey and Taylor are both gifted performers and both shine brightest when allowed to let loose on stage playing their own music.

In short, the show was great. Throughout the night, Harvey moved about the stage wielding an electric guitar, adjusting mics between solos and tuning between songs. When she was most focused, it seemed like the guitar was an extension of her arm. At one point, the whammy bar fell off and she replaced it without stopping the song. Likewise, Taylor strummed an acoustic guitar and provided pitch-perfect lead vocals for the choruses.

The two made for a band that was greater than the sum of its parts. They were visibly most at ease when they were riffing off of each other — teasing each other or making fun of someone in the audience dropping their water bottle. Their joy was infectious. 

My only major gripe with the show was the tonal whiplash present throughout. Harvey and Taylor have a lot to say and not a lot of time to say it — an unfortunate reality made clearest when the two jumped from back-to-back slow ballads concerning a crisis of meaning to an acoustic cover of “Super Bass.” Was it funny? Yes. Did it ruin my night? No.

I had the chance to interview Taylor after the show to get Sawyer’s story. Harvey had lost her voice but was smiling at everything Taylor said, which I took as agreement. 

“It’s definitely kind of grueling on your physical health, for sure,” Taylor said of their upcoming tour. “We’re excited, but it will definitely be a challenge.” 

The women got their start from a strange coincidence. “We broke up with our boyfriends on the same day on accident,” Taylor said. “We were like ‘let’s start a band.’” Metal.

Taylor advises aspiring musicians to work hard. “It’s never just gonna happen,” Taylor said. ”You have to make it happen, for sure.” 


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