sharon van etten

Last night I went to see Sharon Van Etten at the Crystal. Seeing music there is a little dicey because the proportions of the room make me uncomfortable, and as much as I want to enjoy myself, a full 1/3 of my brain is tied up tamping down my claustrophobia.

I went with somebody with an extra ticket, and I wasn’t very familiar with her music beyond some cramming on my drive home from work. There’s something nice about coming fresh to someone in concert. I may have not had the sweet anticipation of her super-fans, the ones who had been waiting five years for new music and were losing their minds, but I think that is balanced by an openness to the new material.

She came out in a gray trouser suit, double breasted and with pinstripes that echoed wartime fashion to me. During the first song, the thin material shook with nerves for just a second. Her voice was swooping, somewhere in the neighborhood of Florence Welch and Stevie Nicks. At first, she hid behind long black bangs, mumbling and moaning into the microphone, stomping chunky black heels and feeling the beat by slapping her legs. Over the course of the set, she loosened up. During “Seventeen,” a track on her new album–so many great songs about that age: “Edge of Seventeen”, “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” “Dancing Queen”, “It Was a Very Good Year”–there is this climactic line, I know what you’re gonna be, where all of the sudden she dropped into a new gear of energy and rage and betrayal and power and screamed, and the crowd screamed back because the song speaks to the part of us that is hurt that we all thought we would be different, and we really weren’t, or at least not in the way our seventeen year-old selves thought we would be, those idiots.

(My seventeen year old self would have hated me forever for calling him an idiot, and he’s not wrong, one day one of us will finally kill the other.)

How cool are bands? People that get together to play music. That’s what I was thinking. I was close enough to the stage to see their faces, to see when patches were switched, when folks tuned in breaks, furtive hand signals to the sound guy. It seemed like they were having a great time.

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