Sharon Van Etten with Shearwater at Lee’s Palace; Tuesday February 21, 2012

I was flipping through my planner a week before the current and I realised that Ms. Van Etten was playing a gig in Toronto. Hearing very little about her, I knew my great pal Cait, was a fan. I trust most of what Cait likes, her enthusiasm for the National sprung my long term relationship with the band. Super Cait, upon asking, put together a mix on Grooveshark for me featuring the following tunes… and the perfect mix:

1. “Have You Seen”
2. “One Day”
3. “Peace Signs”
4. “Love More”
5. “Serpents”
6. “Mike McDermott”

I’d fallen in big love.

Sharon Van Etten, for those who don’t know, is one well connected New Jersey native, now living in Brooklyn. It was Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio that convinced Van Etten to pursue a career in music and has since collaborated with the Dessner twins (of the National), Beruit and the Antlers. Seems like an untouchable combination.

I gotta say, I wasn’t really blown away by Van Etten. Her stage presence was airy, but grateful. Her songs translated well, for the most part. Sometimes her use of the harmonium or other synth keyboards drained out her sound. It was really rough a times, but she always managed to find her way back to something really nice sounding. I was pretty surprised not to hear her big tune “Peace Sign.” 

Shearwater were fantastic. They’ve always been on my radar because of my big love for Okkervil River, but I never really dove into them. I remember when their album Rook came out, it got a ton of buzz, but I really didn’t take to their soft, dramatic sounds. So, their relation to Okkervil River is that Shearwater was originally started by Okkervil frontman Will Scheff and their guitarist Johnathan Meiburg, both guys hailing from Texas. In hearing their live gig, you can really hear the band’s roots in Okkervil River. They’ve got a very dramatic sound which parallels that of Okkervil, but maybe takes it two steps ahead, being a little more extreme.

Interestingly, Meiburg has his Master’s in Geography! His thesis is titled “The Biogeography of Striated Caracaras(Phalcoboenus australis),” devoting much of his interest in birds. This is greatly reflected in his album titles and band’s name (Shearwater that is). They really sported a really well-put together set, you could tell they’ve been around for a while. I think it’s going to take a bit of time for me to warm up to this band.

At the end of the gig, Sharon called Shearwater back on the stage where they performed a tune called “I Wanna Destroy You” by the Soft Boys.

It was another one of those humbling shows where you know an artist and it feels like no one you know has heard of her… Well, this show was sold out. Pretty impressive!


While she didn’t play this ditty, I stumbled upon “We Are Fine” a tune she does with the lovely Zach Condon (of Beirut):

And my personal favourite tune also from Tramp, “Serpents” (performed perfectly):



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