In the first few moments of the music video for Menagerie by Mighty Brother – local New Orleans indie rock band – I was severely concerned. The picture was of a pre-teen adolescent African American girl, with colorful lights flickering across her face in the dark, enclosed space. The FIRST THING that came to mind regarding setting was the backseat of a police car, in the aftermath of some horrible/horribly relevant tragedy. Before that idea could form fully, we cut to her silhouette seated in a school desk, in front of a screen. She’s watching a projection of images and text, in sync with song, while holding on to a small stuffed toy.
Wow, was I off. Though, thinking on it, that first inclination, while grossly incorrect, is a reflection of where we are at right now. And the subsequent video is a juxtaposition to that view of racially profiled violence. We’ve been programmed to suspect the worst case scenario, never considering our better selves or best outcomes. Throughout Menagerie, this unnamed black girl, smiling widely and eyes glued to the screen, open and thoughtful, is exposed to clip after clip of positive reinforcement and imagery that completely sets her stage for a future where she will have to/be expected to/be prepared to stand up for herself and others. Of course, nobody should HAVE to be required to do any of that, but after all, in a reality where a music videos opening few seconds invokes the scariest of scenarios through no fault of its own …
“Glide on the ocean bed
Fish swimming overhead
Breathe without oxygen
Dive as deep as the dolphin swims”
“Prowl between the trees
Jackals, they turn from me
Roar like the wildfire
Loud as any lion’s pride”
While this text appears blasted in front of her, superimposed across peaceful and blissful animals and greenery, the girl watches often with glee and dances proudly with interpretation and bravery. Soon though, we move from one environment to the next, showing snippets of brutality and conflict, climaxing with nuclear bomb testing footage. All the while, she watches. All the while, she dances. All the while, she’s ready.
Mighty Brother’s soft voice and steady but melodic beat offer up the perfect score to getting R.E.M. sleep – the kind that leaves one in a deep state of dreaming and introspection, open to mish-mashing the various images of the past day. Menagerie absolutely fits this bill, leaving one not just in a state of awe, but in a better place overall. I felt like taking on the world afterward. A world that has left me too cynical and less open to the fantastical and revelatory. A world I want to change.
RATING: 5 / 5
Mighty Brother plays in New Orleans this weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) at W XYZ Bar, Playing for Change Day and Gasa Gasa respectively. More detailed information on this weekend’s shows can be found listed below. Visit their site for more information on where to buy tickets, where to listen to their music and how you can support them!
Friday 9/14 – A-Loft Hotel (5:30-7:30)
Saturday 9/15 – Playing for Change Day at NOLA Brewing (12pm)
Sunday 9/16 – Tour Kick-off show at Gasa Gasa