Pen Palindrome Performs an Intimate Live Set at WMUC Third Rail Radio

On Sunday evening, Feb. 24, in the live room of WMUC’s Radio station, Ava Mirzadegan, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Fairfax, Va., performed a magical set of music for the College Park community under the band name Pen Palindrome.

Inspired by her name, Mirzadegan’s band name originates from the signature on her childhood penpal letters, which she signed, “Your pen palindrome, Ava.”

Mirzadegan said that her emotional state is something her songwriting is inspired by, and that she has not been inspired to write anything with particular direction lately.

Instead, she said, she ad libs lyrics that showcase her “emotions and subconscious at play,” even though there are musical influences that Mirzadegan draws inspiration from.

“I would describe my genre as ‘ambient rock that you can take home to meet your family,'” Mirzadegan said.

WMUC Live Music Director, James Lore, said that after seeing Ava’s first live show in early February, he wanted to have her play a show at Third Rail.

Whether big or small, Lore said that it’s important to give all bands a chance to share their music by giving them a platform at the radio station.

“There’s so many talented musicians around here that deserve exposure like we give them,” Lore said.

Lore said that bringing different music genres to WMUC, ranging from hard core rock to soft indie sounds, shares the larger life narrative that “live performance is super vital and without it, music is less interesting.”

“I would describe my genre as ‘ambient rock that you can take home to meet your family,'”- Ava Mirzadegan

During a few of her songs, Mirzadegan is accompanied by a drum machine that  resembles a tiny piano. She said that the machine is part of an electric organ that she bought off of Craigslist.

It’s not the only instrument from Craigslist that Mirzadegan owns. She also has “three organs and an autoharp” as well as “a bunch of guitars and pianos that have either been gifted to [her] or bought.”

Inspired through instruments, Mirzadegan said she would rather recreate sounds when she plays live, than produce them through a computer.

“I love finding all their unique voices and being able to hold them in my hands rather than it living on a screen,” she said.

Playing music right after a louder, more intense band, Lore said that Mirzadegan’s sound emphasized the importance of showcasing a diverse range of live music.

“I liked having Ava’s set as an immediate foil to that of a hardcore punk band,” Lore said.

Maliq Emmanuel, a show-goer and resident of Hyattsville, Md., who had not heard of Pen Palindrome before said that he thoroughly enjoyed the sound of Mirzadegan’s solo band and would see her perform again.

By performing in the small space of the live room and having the audience sit closely next to one another,  Emmanuel said that the intimate experience made Mirzadegan’s music stand out more.

“I really enjoyed the chill vibes of all of her songs, ” Emmanuel said. “To me, it felt like the music she wrote came from a genuine place.”



Ava Mirzadegan, of Pen Palindrome, sets up instruments before playing a set in the WMUC live room in College Park, Md., Sunday, February 24, 2018. The radio station hosts live music on FM radio every Sunday at events called “Third Rail,” where the University of Maryland college community can go support local and touring artists. (Photo by Teresa Johnson)


Pen Palindrome’s attention is drawn to the Live Music Director (out of shot) about information that their show will be live, on-air, at 7 p.m. in the live room of WMUC Radio, Sunday, February 24, 2018. The live room is a small space of the radio station where members of the community can gather to sit or stand in the room to enjoy the performance. (Photo by Teresa Johnson)


Gazing out into the crowd, Pen Palindrome captivates the audience with songs played on electric guitar and soft sounds of a drum machine in the live room of WMUC Radio, Sunday, February 24, 2018. Pen Palindrome plays their whimsical set following a performance of a hard rock band, providing a counteractive calming presence. (Photo by Teresa Johnson)


Along with a mostly solo set, Ava Mirzadegan of Pen Palindrome (left) sings with sister Raha (right) during part of the set in the live room of WMUC Radio, Sunday, February 24, 2018. The sisters sing to a cover of “Love More” by Sharon Van Etten and an original song called “idk” that both of them co-wrote. (Photo by Teresa Johnson)


Live Music Director, James Lore, chats with Pen Palindrome on-air after their set about coming up with the name for the band and what they been up to musically in the FM studio of WMUC Radio, Sunday, February 24, 2018. The FM radio station, 88.1, is a channel that the surrounding College Park community can tune in to with the intent of discovering new music and listening to students’ shows. (Photo by Teresa Johnson)

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