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Jessica Lea Mayfield brings her multiple musical personalities to The Southern

Singer-songwriter transforms from electric angst to acoustic passion in front of a Charlottesville audience

Jessica Lea Mayfield doesn’t care what you think. With her bright pink hair and furry green guitar strap, she is an artist who knows her sound and has charted her own course through her music. Mayfield will play her songs, whether you like them or not.

During her set at The Southern Monday night, Mayfield delivered a clear, albeit brief, showcase which summarized her blossoming career. She extensively drew from her grungy new album “Make My Head Sing,” but managed to mix in pieces from her softer releases, including 2008’s “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt.”

Mayfield has taken a different path with her new album, shifting away from a softer acoustic sound toward one filled with electric guitar riffs. For the most part, this change in her sound seems natural; her songs have, on multiple occasions, been labeled “ominous,” but the dreamy, sing-song tone here still playfully carries darker ideas.

“I Wanna Love You” was easily the most memorable track Mayfield performed from her newer offerings, starting with a set of chords so similar to the opening of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” that at first it seemed she was covering it. With an electric twist, the song was still classic Mayfield, with a cheerful voice drifting through the underground venue. The disinterested happiness filling her singing masked the deeper message of obsession — even insanity — which carries throughout the song.

Mayfield’s moody lyrics paired well with her demeanor on stage: at once standoffish, flitty and content.

The sparse Monday night audience was treated to an artist who is keenly aware of both herself and her sound. It is a rare thing to make music which seems to fit so well with who the singer is. Watching her perform, it seemed likely that she sings the same songs while at home.

Though the move to a darker, angrier alt-rock sound from a previously chippy folk one feels natural, it is still regrettable. Mayfield managed to hypnotize her audience most effectively with a closing acoustic set — stunning each person who watched into a silent stillness.

Still, because it was a Monday night, The Southern was practically empty — detracting somewhat from the experience, as it was left to the music to fill the space on the floor. Ultimately, Mayfield took advantage of the setting. Sitting on the edge of the stage and gathering the audience in close, she made her final set all the more impactful by taking advantage of the atmosphere.

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