Up-and-comers on the verge of greatness, Shortly is a name you should get used to hearing.
Shortly was born in Detroit as the solo project of Alexandria Maniak, who now travels and plays shows with a full band of, at times, rotating members. Alex first released single “Matthew” in 2016, and has put out two other singles as well as recorded her debut EP, “Richmond,” in the years since.
I first heard Shortly when they opened for Bad Bad Hats this past June in St. Louis, and I was immediately struck with the expertise with which Alex and the other members of her ensemble commanded both an audience and a stage. Their performance was captivating and, in all honesty, I had forgotten that they were even openers until Bad Bad Hats began to set up after Shortly’s performance had ended. Understandably disappointed that they did not have more than a few singles released, I was eager to catch them live the next time I had the opportunity.
Luckily enough, I got to see Shortly on their first of many stops this fall when they passed through Chicago on Sunday, September 2, before they hit the road later that night.
Alex (lead vocals, guitar) took stage inside Beat Kitchen at around 8:45 pm alongside bandmates Kris Herrmann (drums), Austin William (guitar, vocals), and Luke Dean (bass) – also known as Michigan-based artist Vagabonds. The quartet dove right in to one of their newly released singles, “Spare Time,” a song which packs a punch through a contrasting shift from minimal to maximal instrumental capacity, as well as the pointed lyrics, “Maybe I am the spare time you spent between your sheets.” Shortly’s talent is entrancing; a hush went over everyone in the audience in anticipation, eliciting cheers and yells out of everyone after each and every song.
Alex and the other musicians within Shortly are intimidatingly talented and cool, but are simultaneously very normal, unpretentious, and humble about their abilities. Between each song, Alex, seemingly instinctively, began to provide the audience with insight into the meaning behind her lyrics, as well as joke about how her music is primarily sad in nature. Shortly’s musical anthology is very deeply serious and personal – exploring a wide arc of themes including sexual assault, loss, and (at times, painful) self-realizations – and Alex is not hiding any of that. She is up-front about her lyrics and their gravity; this kind of openness can sometimes feel like oversharing, but in the case of Shortly it feels like honesty, transparency. Simply stated by Alex herself, “I like to talk about all my songs.”
The natural familiarity with which the band and audience interact – which has particularly struck me during both instances that I have seen them – is truly remarkable. Shortly’s performances are some of the most captivating I have ever experienced; I was truly engrossed in the music and their performance, and I am sure countless others felt the same way. Although the crowd at Beat Kitchen that night was certainly not huge, I have a feeling that the audiences Shortly will be playing to are only going to get bigger.
Keep an eye and an ear out for Shortly on tour with Mom Jeans this fall, and for their upcoming EP, “Richmond,” which will be released on Friday, September 14.