It’s been several years now since we broke the news to you that LA indie pop duo The Hard To Get had disbanded (at least, I think we broke it—I can’t remember now—but just in case we didn’t, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but The Hard To Get broke up about five years ago). It was not long after that guitarist and vocalist Melissa Kaplan conceived a new project—something ironically far removed from itinerant lifestyle of the aspiring underground pop star. And thus was born Daggers MacKenzie, the story of a traveling knife juggler turned Wild West outlaw.
The story is, of course, told through Kaplan’s songwriting seamlessly blending influences ranging from indie pop and alt-country to cabaret with lyrics that are as witty and clever as anything she did with The Hard To Get. And as was the case with her old band, Kaplan’s greatest strength still lies in her sense of melody. Whether it’s the alt-country lead single “All Aboard”, the seduction ballad “I Feel Good”, or the climactic belter “The Love Reprimand”, strong melodies are the thread that ties the whole set—the whole show—together. The result is a show I would compare to French circus cabaret act Amélie-les-crayons, but which Kaplan describes—more accurately, I imagine—as a “lesbian circus Hedwig”.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What does a one-woman lesbian circus indie pop-rock opera look like? We’ve all asked ourselves that question at some point, haven’t we? Well, I have seen it. Corsets, cowboy boots, and yes, actual knife juggling all play a role in what adds up to a compelling and often genuinely funny drama about love, crime, and sexual awakening. But none of it would be possible without Kaplan’s knack for narrative songwriting.
Of course, word of the completion of this project after several years of writing and even formal circus training would be good news on it’s own. But recently, Daggers MacKenzie was officially accepted for a two-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer with another performance scheduled for the United Solo Festival in NYC in the fall. Full details regarding all festival dates are still forthcoming. As I understand it, an Indiegogo page will be set up to help fund the Edinburgh run, though it stands to reason that the proceeds from the sale of the soundtrack will also go toward the presumably hefty cost of taking the show to Scotland. And that soundtrack is already available through Bandcamp. It can also be purchased through the Daggers MacKenzie Facebook page.