Big Thief at the Horseshoe Tavern; Wednesday June 28, 2017

The girl in front of us excitedly typed “@BigTheif…” over a dimly lit Snap Chat video. After an unsuccessfully attempt at finding the band, she erased her spelling error and changed it to the excitedly punctuated “Big Theif!!” I turned to Adam and we shared a chuckle about our Snap Chat concert buddy’s struggle to put I before E except after C. Full disclosure – I always fuck up spelling Big THIEF.

My second time seeing Big Thief and my first time seeing them knowing their material. Last October I took a risk on an empty Friday night to see them open for Frankie Cosmos, two bands I knew nothing about other than the highest regard a la Lucy Dacus. Big Thief’s twenty-five year-old vocalist/guitarist Adrianne Lenker’s taken her projects to Toronto four or five times, playing as Big Thief three times and on her own opening for Here We Go Magic in 2015. I feel the luckiest to have even caught her for half of those gigs.

A part of me hates seeing bands get big. As a teenager I used to hoard music and share it with select people I felt deserved knowing it. Now, I still enjoy music independently, but without the possessive tendencies and I’m amazed to see that a band that I only seem to like is able to sell out the Horseshoe Tavern. Perhaps I’m not socializing enough with Big Thief fans. It’s weird feeling to look around and think your little secret, the record that won’t move at your record store, is able to draw 400 people.

Big Thief played for an hour and a half, now drawing from two albums Lenker told the crowd that it’s so nice to finally be able to share the album with everyone. The newer songs almost sounded better than those played off of Masterpiece. The tunes off Capacity felt more rehearsed and cleaner – perhaps better, less risky arrangements. Capacity is noticeably absent of the grit and edge that songs like “Real Love” and “Masterpiece” have. In the second guitar solo of “Real Love” Adam turned to me and suggested they were offering a sneaky launch into “Shark Smile.” Not quite, while it was the next song, it was the almost painfully long live rendition of a recorded guitar solo.

Adam and I have spent the entire week prior to the gig singing the catchy chorus of “Shark Smile”: “And she said woo, baby, take me. And I said, woo, baby, take me too.” The show did not let us down – a reverse of what you’d expect, guitarist and backup vocalist Buck Meek shadows Lenker’s vocals throughout the verses and allows her to sing independently throughout the chorus.

Lenker isn’t a talker, which is surprising because her vocals are so strong and her singing voice is very deliberate. She throws her voice in a way that is her own and sets Big Thief apart from other folk acts. This was very apparent with Julia Jacklin’s version of “Paul,” which is beautiful, but lacks the perfect pacing that Big Thief gives it. See:

Beyond all this, Big Thief has the best lyrics that are minimal and poetic:

“Paul” – A series of promises that come off effortlessly. There are two songs in Big Thief’s set list where Lenker’s vocals come off as rapping at times (she hits in the gorgeous song “Mary” off of Capacity). I feel like audiences are drawn to this song because it comes off as a big defeat and accomplishment for singing it all the way through in one breath:

I’ll be your morning bright goodnight shadow machine
I’ll be your record player baby if you know what I mean
I’ll be your real tough cookie with the whiskey breath
I’ll be a killer and a thriller and the cause of our death

“Real Love” – the lyrics alone don’t offer much, but listening to Adrianne Lenker belt this nearing the end of the tune makes it for me:

            How much blood is worth the draw?

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Happy 2017! pt two

I have to apologize for my absence, I’ve left you, my loyal reader, alone for 149. In this time I saw the following concerts:

  • The Radio Dept with Germans at the Mod Club on March 5
  • Dinosaur Jr at the Danforth Music Hall on March 10
  • Wilco at Massey Hall on March 15
  • The Staves at the Phoenix on March 17
  • Jenn Grant outside of the Great Hall on March 24
  • Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee at Longboat Hall on March 24
  • Peter Silberman at Through Being Cool on March 25
  • M.Ward at the Great Hall on March 25
  • Lambchop at the Great Hall on March 27
  • Lucy Dacus at the Tralf (Niagara Falls, NY) on April 1
  • Allison Crutchfield & the Fizz with Vagabon (who I missed) at the Silver Dollar on April 5
  • The Constantines at Mitchell Hall (Guelph) on April 8
  • Choir! Choir! Choir! do Big Star’s “Thirteen” at the Great Hall on April 17
  • Sondre Lerche at the Garrison on April 20
  • Tim Darcy at Baby G’s on April 20
  • Julia Jacklin at the Rivoli on April 21
  • Dan Romano at Longboat Hall on April 22 (although I sadly and very regretfully only caught one song)
  • Feist at Trinity St Paul Church on April 27
  • Metz with Fake Palms/THE LAST SHOW AT THE SILVER DOLLAR on April 30
  • Guided by Voices at the Magic Stick (Detroit, MI) on May 5
  • Sylvan Esso with Lucy Dacus at the Phoenix on May 22
  • Frightened Rabbit at the Danforth Music Hall on May 29
  • The Avalanches at the Phoenix on June 8
  • Do Make Say Think at the Danforth Music Hall on June 10
  • Workin’ Mom’s Benefit Improv Show at the Garrison on June 16
  • Bry Webb with Bird City at the Pump House (Grimsby, ON) on June 18
  • Thursday with Fucked Up and MeiwthoutYou (did not see) at the Danforth Music Hall on June 24
  • Big Thief with Twain (skipped) at the Horseshoe Tavern on June 28
  • Elvis Costello at the Sony Centre on July 20