Warm, tense and moody, Downy Mildew's music is designed to get under the skin, and that's just what it did Friday at the Lhasa Club. Guitarist-singer Jenny Homer, resembling a refugee from a Beatnik coffeehouse, displayed a tightly-wound cool and a tough but winsome vocal style, while co-singer and guitarist Charlie Baldonado's boyish innocence and chiming 12-string textures grounded the L.A. quartet's folk-pop drones. The band closed with a clever medley of the Peter, Paul & Mary hit "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning," with 10,000 Maniacs singer Natalie Merchant joining Homer.
Supported by a goateed bassist and a female drummer, Cindy Lee Berryhill added to the Lhasa's retro-Beat chic, opening the show with a set of plaintive, topical, complicated ditties splashed with off-the-wall humor. Hard to pin down, Berryhill is goofy when you expect sincerity, didactic when you expect humor. An intriguing, off-kilter talent.