Saturday's event at Iota was a benefit for the Low Power Radio Coalition, an organization committed to stopping the corporate conglomeration of commercial radio. It also marked the return of New York band Ida, absent from the spotlight for many months, reportedly to record a major-label debut.
Guitarist Daniel Littleton cracked that "the record is stuck in jail, but we're in the process of rescuing it." New tunes proved to be some of the performance's high points, hinting that the new disc may be even more straightforward than the group's already candid back catalogue.
Littleton, Elizabeth Mitchell and Karla Schickele were supported at times by violin, bass and clarinet, coloring emotional snapshots like "Back Burner" and "Great South River." Using little electric instrumentation, Mitchell and Littleton's skilled harmonizing propelled the enjoyable set, evoking the painterly detail of Joni Mitchell and the earthy dynamics of Richard and Linda Thompson. Besides closing with "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," Ida indulged its penchant for cover material with the Secret Stars' "Shoe In" and the traditional "Pony Boy."
The group's harmonizing was affecting, but its true power source was revealed: Littleton's impressive, expressive guitar playing. He also accompanied Jenny Toomey during her opening set, which featured sharply drawn songs of interpersonal to and fro. Warren Defever, the mastermind behind His Name Is Alive, contributed an engaging set in which lyrics like those of "This World Is Not My Home" were positively interplanetary.