Monday April 04th 2011, 5:03 am
In Living Color: Sharon Van Etten at the Satellite
Filed under: In Living Color | Posted by:

The Satellite was abuzz last Friday night.  Having recovered (mostly) from our post-SXSW hangovers, dankovers and Texas heat exhaustion, the energy of our favorite glitter-curtained venue had us clapping, cheering and swooning from opener(s) to headliner, Sharon Van Etten. Read more after the jump.

Ivan and Aloysa

Seattle add-ons Ivan & Aloysa provided a youthful bounce to those devoted enough to arrive early.   Propelled by songwriting reminiscent of the harmony-infused nature rock of the Pacific Northwest, the group’s heel stomps and cathartic guitar lines got even us “arms folded” Los Angeles natives to clap to the goddamn beat.

Little Scream

Next, Little Scream—a Montreal-based project spearheaded by magnetic frontwoman and songwriter/guitarist Laurel Sprengelmeyer—made no delay in melting our unsuspecting faces off.  The songs played out in fits and starts, like barrages of fists attacking at one moment and relenting the next.  Sprengelmeyer (in heels, no less, by necessity due to the need to quickly access buttons on her extensive pedal board) wrangled her instrument like an unbroken horse, gripping it with focused ferocity, while the accompanying two members blended violin swirls with accented drum flourishes.  Little Scream is a surrealist freakout—an indulgence for the senses.

And then the room seemed to suddenly fill in every annex as our hero for the evening, soft-spoken Sharon Van Etten took the stage.  Given to self-deprecating stage banter, Etten’s greatest strength is her willingness to be vulnerable with the audience.  She seems overcome by an internal spirit when singing, her jazz/folk toned voice bellowing in transcendent arcs, her eyes rolling in the back of her head like a transfixed healer.   And yet only moments later she can confess: “This song is dedicated to Kurt Russell.  Don’t tell my Mom I said that.”

Sharon Von Etten

And it’s this no-pretense presence that allows her songs to carry on repetitive chord progressions, their deliberate order somehow hypnotizing the listener deeper into the rawness of lyrics.  Supported by an air-tight rhythm section, the only elements missed were the complex vocal harmonies from the recordings. Closing out the night, our lady returned for a final Encore, taking solo guitar requests of the audience’s choosing.  The strength of her appeal—a communication of deep set personal pain as a means to overcome—was only further highlighted when the music was stripped to its naked essence.  We couldn’t help but cheer.  The woman is just too damn genuine. Note: She’ll be returning to Los Angeles in September (Sunday, September 11 to be exact) for another KCRW sponsored event—this time at the Hollywood Bowl alongside The National and Neko Case. More info about that show is here.  Photos by Jon Mackey.



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