Gig Review: Julien Baker, Half Waif, & Petal
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Town Hall, a beautiful, near-century old seated venue was the perfect destination for Julien Baker’s NYC date along her Turn Out The Lights Tour. Each of the venue’s approximate 1,500 seats were filled. Amidst the in-your-faceness of Times Square, Town Hall’s stage was lit solely by five dim lights on the stage and a few stagnant stage lights. With no intricate stage set up and no standing room, the focus of the night was exclusively on the music. Julien’s stop at Town Hall on October 27th, supported by Half Waif and Petal, was beautiful night of acknowledging the feelings of being scared and hopeless but working to mitigate those feeling and be more optimistic and hopeful.
Walking on stage with only herself and a guitar, Kiley performed a beautiful, stripped down set. She also sported a party hat in celebration of Julien’s record release that day. She performed older songs and new ones off her recent EP. “It’s not often you get to be on tour with only women who are strong, capable, and talented women.” Kiley didn’t have much time to speak in her short 30 minute set, but in between songs she was able to express her gratitude and appreciation to be a part of Julien Baker’s Turn Out The Lights tour. Similarly, I think I can speak for the audience and say they too were grateful for this lineup of non-male fronted bands, an occurrence that is unfortunately rare in the music industry.
Nandi Rose Plunkett of Half Waif began her set telling the crowd that she overjoyed to have loved ones in the audience from ages nine to 92 and similarly expressed gratitude for the wonderful people she was on tour with, stating “if you’re surrounded by the people you love, you kinda can’t go wrong.” Midway through the set, Nandi announced that Half Waif was in the process of making a new record and played a new song off of it. The haunting piano ballad echoed through the hall as people tried to grasp onto each lyric. From the lyrics I was able to gather, the song is about the struggles of being on tour and the loneliness that produces. The song nearly brought me to tears.
The moment Julien Baker walked on stage, the audience roared with applause and cheer. Once she reached the mic, everyone fell utterly silent, and it felt as if the world was still. Julien opened with “Appointments,” the loop echoing through the hall. With the first lyric, the audience was instantaneously drawn in and captivated by the emotional song. It was as if Julien put us in a trance where we were completely unaware of any of our surroundings except for her voice and guitar. With people in this trance, I noticed very few faces illuminated by a phone or a phone raised in the air to capture a video. It was so silent that one could hear a pin drop, or, in this case, the shutter of my camera. This was apparent for most songs, however, a hush singing could be heard from the audience on “Everybody Does” and a couple other songs off Sprained Ankle.
For a one-woman band, Julien has perfected the art of making a solo set sound so full. With Julien’s famous use of a loop pedal and violinist Camille Faulkner to accompany her for the majority of the set, a whole other dimension to the songs. Additionally, for “Turn Out the Lights,” Julien used a pedal that, for the explosive end of the song, created a sort of orchestral reverb that sent shivers throughout the audience.
After an immense, near hour and a half long set, Julien thanked the crowd and walked off stage. Immediately, every person rose from their seats and bellowed a roaring applause, demanding an encore. Julien then walked back on stage alongside Kiley, Nandi, and Camille to deliver an immensely powerful encore. With her acoustic guitar still plugged in but with a lower volume, the four of them backed away from the microphone and performed “Good News” with nothing but the natural echo to amplify their voices. The harmonies produced by the immensely talented musicians was unworldly. In closing, a crew member brought a cake out on stage in celebration of Turn Out the Light’s release. When Julien blew out the candles, I wished the concert would never end.
– Words and Photography by Rebecca Kavaler
The emotions felt during this concert can only be expressed so much in words. Everyone needs to see Julien Baker on this tour to fully experience the genius, heart wrenching, and healing power that is her live performance. Check out the rest of her tour dates below: