Rock & Roll Wine Bar | Live Music Berlin MD

chick habit KimAlthough artistic pursuits were abound in Berlin for the 2nd Friday Art Stroll, I spent the majority of my evening tucked into a cozy bistro table at the Maryland Wine Bar, sipping on lychee infused wine and realizing that spring may actually be here to stay. The sunny streets were full of vendors and street corner musicians. People moseyed through exhibits of locally created art, photography, literature and music. And if someone could please introduce me to the dude who cruises around town on the double decker bicycle, it would be greatly appreciated.

The intimate space provided by the Maryland Wine Bar is perfect for sampling a vast array of Maryland-made wines, noshing on cheese boards and perusing your favorite poetry collection. Owners Mike and Debbie treat customers like guests at their own kitchen table. Surprisingly enough, it also turns out to be a great place for a little bit of rock. Make sure you sign up for their email list to keep abreast of which eclectic act is performing. I hear there is a ukulele player in the near future. You would be silly to miss that.

I am relatively certain that I have never before seen a band perform in a wine bar. I know for damn sure that I have never seen any band with members the likes of Colleen Devaney, Ryan Abbott or Sally McGee perform in a wine bar. Ok, I just met Sally, but I am charging her guilty by association. If the Tenacious D songs I witnessed her perform at the post-show party are a proper gauge, my assumptions are not unwarranted.

If you have yet to experience the music of the Annapolis-based Chick Habit, I suggest that you do yourself a favor and click here to preview and purchase their debut album, The Backseat. The ethereal sounds birthed of the union of Ryan’s habitually punk guitar, Sally’s haunting cello and Colleen’s seraphic vocal chords are at once soothing and unsettling. It is easy to be lulled by the relaxing vibe and not notice the depth of lyrics such as in the album’s title track: “I’ve been bruised and I’ve got scars. I found Jesus in the backseat of a stolen car.”

There’s real dirt here, real pain. Just like Colleen’s voice, Chick Habit’s songs are full of intensity wrapped in fluffy clouds. At any moment, the storm could break, and it does in songs such as “Sexual Harassment Panda,” in which the band tackles an issue that chicks deal with on the daily: creepy dudes in bars. At their performance, but unfortunately not on the album, they took on another very modern subject in the number titled “Drunk Dial.” Pieces like these help to connect us humble listeners to these proficient musicians. After all, they’re just like us!

The trio showed love for the Eastern Shore in their snappy ode to Ocean City (“Maryland, not New Jersey. That’s the dry one.”) Their tongue-in-cheek humor gives a fun spin to a contest ditty that was overlooked by the town’s search for a family-friendly theme song. The more complex tune, “The Nor’easter,” also shows passion for the seaside in the lines, “My heart has always taken to the waves. Sing me through all the pain, wash me away.” Anyone who has ever sat alone on the beach can identify with the power in those words.

I often tend to judge bands based on the popular songs that they choose to cover, and Chick Habit passed my test with flying colors. Their version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” had the entire room entranced, and Rilo Kiley’s “Promised Land” proved to be an ideal vehicle for showcasing this three-piece’s versatility. I had to do some internet digging when Colleen started spitting out the lyrics, “If I die today the last thing you remember won’t be about some apple bottom jeans with the boots with the fur.” Kid Cudi has never sounded so melodic. There is just something about a female vocalist laying claim to a typically male medium that makes the impersonation more striking than the original.

Although they professed to have chosen songs from their repertoire that are more “wine bar appropriate,” when Ryan and Sally starting to bang out the opening riff of Pearl Jam’s “rearviewmirror,” I knew it was about to get serious. Colleen may have out-Eddied Mr. Vedder himself, and I have a feeling that if Ryan had not been surrounded by fragile wine glasses, there would have been a lot more headbanging and rolling around on the floor involved.

Chick Habit illustrates a flexibility that more well-known acts should adopt. They are an unexpected treat in a sometimes oversaturated local music market. Their well-stocked arsenal of musical curveballs keep fans waiting with bated breath for their next endeavor. Plus, we all know what they say about cello players…