Category: Music

Faye Webster Brings Tight, Youthful Live Show to DC9

This isn’t from the night I saw her…I was too far back to get a good shot. The lighting looked kind of like this though (ANCHR Magazine)

If one trend has defined the last few years of indie rock, it’s been the rise of the under-25-year-old female singer/songwriter. From Snail Mail to Julien Baker to Soccer Mommy to Phoebe Bridgers to Lucy Dacus, the genre is chock full of young women who have put college on hold (or, in the case of Sidney Gish, worked around their studies) to put out records, tour the world, and plant their artistic flags. I’d have to imagine that the most challenging part of this experience is the touring bit; performing in front of a room of strangers is hard enough, and it can’t get much easier with the expectations a Fader cover story or a Best New Music tag foists upon an artist. 

Indeed, the on-stage results have been mixed. I’ve seen Snail Mail twice, and, while their first show was pretty good, they failed to capture the power and immediacy of their recorded work when I saw them take the cavernous 9:30 Club stage. Conversely, Lucy Dacus’s set at the Black Cat a few months ago ranks among the best shows I’ve seen this year, and Sidney Gish’s stint opening for Petal and Camp Cope at Rock and Roll Hotel last year was among the most impressive, considering all she had at her disposal was her voice, her guitar, and a loop pedal. So what struck me about Faye Webster’s show at DC9 on Thursday night was how deftly the Atlanta singer/songwriter balanced her youthfulness with a tight live performance. 

A photographer by trade, Webster has cannily curated her visual aesthetic to almost as fine a degree as her musical one. Decked out in visors and big slacks, Webster could be called  “normcore” if the “norm” she imitates took place in the mid-20th century when her pet passions of baseball and yo-yos dominated leisure time and the stripes and pale pastels of her wardrobe seamlessly blended into the crowd. But her quirks come with a surprising level of street cred: the young Webster began her career at Atlanta hip-hop label Awful Records, and her photography portfolio includes portraits of Killer Mike, Offset, and high school friend Lil Yachty— work that makes for an eye-grabbing Instagram account

Her music sounds like the sonic distillation of that platform, as well. The languid R&B grooves, steamy horns, and weeping steel pedal that populate 2019’s Atlanta Millionaires Club mix together in a sort of unspecifically nostalgic gauze, draping over Webster’s songs the way a filter might be put over one of her photos to give it a “vintage” look. But, where fuzzing up digital photography may have initially felt like hipster nonsense, Webster’s approach in both of her chosen mediums feels unpretentious. 

Webster was only 12 when Instagram was first launched, so to her, these retro stylizations have never felt like reflections of the past, but images of her very real present. It’s no wonder that someone who came of age in an era when digital things were made to look analog chooses to reflect such an aesthetic in most of her work. What may have seemed like an affectation a few years ago now feels an inextricable part of a person’s identity, and that lends Webster an undeniable confidence that eclipses the otherwise absurdly Millenial/Gen Z image of an artist giving out her bandmate’s Instagram handles on stage and describing them as “lit.”

That confidence of purpose seeped into her performance as well, making for a very effective set. After teasing the audience by singing a few bars of the Father featuring “Flowers,” Webster and her band snapped into the groove of “Come to Atlanta,” which seemed to take hold of the crowd, who began asynchronously bobbing and swaying to the beat. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my young life, and I’ve seen all kinds of music bring people together, but I don’t think there’s anything more universally appreciated than a cool, sturdy groove that can be bopped along too — it taps into something calming and emboldening, granting each of us “flow” and an unearned sense of confidence and swagger that eases most fo our fears of looking like a terrible dancer. The crowd stayed rapt to the rest of the music as well, which, despite the lack of horns in Webster’s live band, didn’t lose much of the appeal of the recorded version. If the brass section’s absence was felt anywhere, it was probably in “Hurst Me Too.” The slow crest of the chorus couldn’t gather enough momentum without horns and strings to have the intended impact, but other horn-heavy tracks like “Pigeon” and “Kingston” transitioned smoothly to the stage.

What wasn’t always as smooth was the transitions from song to song. They were disrupted by tunings, banter, and Webster’s charming gimmicks, which included accepting scratch-offs from the crowd and performing yo-yo tricks to a G-funk beat. The gimmicks were entertaining and impressive, but artists always seem to walk a fine line with stage banter; it seems to embolden the neediest idiots in the crowd to yell stuff at the stage and make themselves the center of attention. I’ve written about my relationship with annoying fans at length, so I won’t dwell on that point, but I will say, when an artist asks for requests, hear’s one, says she’s going to play it, and you keep shouting out song names, you’re not being entertaining. You’re being a massive dick. 

“Jonny,” the final song of the night, was also the most impressive, in terms of both sound and pure stage presence. Dropping her guitar and staring wistfully towards the ceiling, hand over her heart as if she was taking an oath, Webster led her band through a song that felt symphonic even without the full production of it’s recorded version, bringing a dose of very real passion to a night that was otherwise filled with jokes and irony. When the band came back on stage to play the encore, they struck up “Jonny” again, and Webster recited the poem from “Jonny (Reprise)” before just kind of swaying with the rest of her group as they slipped into the coda. If this were a TV show, it’d be the moment where the camera pulls out to a slight overhead shot and the credits begin to r0ll, gently rocking the audience back to real life. It was the kind of outro that reminds us that we’re unlikely to find such grace and beauty in the everyday world, but also lets us think, that somewhere out there, something perfect is in fact happening.

Entertainment Weekly is Going Monthly, and That’s a Shame

(Photos: Marc Hom for EW; Matthias Clamer for EW; Finlay MacKay for EW; Juco for EW; Dan Winters for EW; Art Streiber for EW; Ruven Afandor for EW (2))

 

One thing the youth of today, and certainly the youth of the future, will never understand is how many random magazines used to end up in people’s homes. I don’t know much about the magazine industry, but the way it seemed to work in the early to mid-2000s was that, if you were subscribed to one magazine, the publisher would try to get you to subscribe to their other titles by offering free issues, usually encased in a plastic baggy (a packing method that, for the sake of the environment, I hope my future kids never experience, either). Sometimes, for whatever reason, you’d keep getting these magazines. That’s how Entertainment Weekly entered my life. It was sent to us as a replacement for some other magazine my mom had subscribed to, and it just kept coming.

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Vampire Weekend and Billie Eilish Are Welcome Outliers. Can They Become Revolutionaries Too?

(Photo on the left by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, Right by Ross Gillmore/WireImage)

The other day, a coworker of mine posted this preview of Vampire Weekend’s new album Father of the Bride by Mikael Wood in a slack channel, and I gave it a read. It’s a pretty standard and enjoyable look at the making of a highly anticipated album, but there’s one passage that caught my attention and caused me a bit of distress, and no, it’s not just because the LA Times uses quotation marks instead of italics for album titles:

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I’d Like To Thank You All For Nothing At All: A Jeff Tweedy Live Review

This isn’t a picture from the show I saw him at, but he looked the same minus the hat. Photo by Josh Miller

There’s a part in Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy’s excellent memoir released last year, where he discusses Wilco’s collaboration with Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Avenue albums, a trilogy of records featuring the two artists playing the unrecorded music and lyrics of Woody Guthrie. Apparently, Bragg told the press that he chose Wilco for the project because he thought they were the “ultimate Midwest Americana red-dirt-band,” and, according to Tweedy, he never would have agreed to take part if he had heard that comment at the time. 

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Jenny Lewis’s On the Line Satisfies Even When It Stretches

It’s probably not fair to think of Jenny Lewis as a “child star turned musician” anymore. After all, she made that pivot over twenty years ago when she formed Rilo Kiley, a perennially underrated indie band responsible for one of my favorite songs of all time, and proved she had real staying power as she transitioned gracefully into one-shot duo Jenny and Johnny with then-beau Johnathan Rice (a pairing that penned one of the best songs about the recession) and eventually her own well-regarded solo career. And yet, I couldn’t help but think of her thespian past, and how it must inform a lot of the artistic choices on her new album On the Line.

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Julia Jacklin Turns Heavy and Contemplative with Album “Crushing”

Do a quick Google Images search of Julia Jacklin and you’ll find an Aussie in her late twenties, frizzy-haired, and dressed in plaid mini skirts. She’s often captured staring blankly into the camera, stationed sometimes before flora, sometimes in tackily furnished living rooms, but always in the softly faded film style authentic to the 90s and now artificially reproduced for budding indie artists across the late 2010s. But don’t let the fashionable aesthetic fool you into writing Jacklin off as yet another sad-eyed, guitar-bearing kid posting their Sadboi™ tracks to Bandcamp. Her twee appearance is but the sugar that helps her unique brand of aching honesty go down. Well, that, and her angelic musicality, of course.

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