You Won’t + Lady Lamb the Beekeeper + Lucius + Julia Read – Union Hall – Feb. 18th
The winter months are typically slow going as far as shows are concerned, but I’m slowing working my way back into the scene. Though none of the names on the bill for The Wild Honey Pie show at Union Hall on Saturday night were particularly big, the small, cozy underground space sold-out well before the first act of the night, Julia Read.
Saturday night marked my first time seeing Read play, but there was something about her that struck me as deeply familiar. Within the opening notes on her violin I quickly scrawled down three words in my notebook: female Sam Amidon.
Like Amidon, Read has chosen to pursue that organic, backwoods kind of folk music that’s more suited to porches in the Appalachians than to hipster bars in Brooklyn. Their music is not polished and poppy, but raw. Read has the beefed up voice of a 1940s Disney heroine – one who clearly doesn’t need rescuing.
But the similarities between the two young musicians extend further than the music itself. Both have this amazing earnest, little kid purity about them. Staring straight ahead in her over-sized t-shirt and loose-fitting Dickies, Read has the kind of crazed, wide-eyed look you can’t help but mimic a little, like a baby in a social psychology experiment.
I love the video above, but here’s a song that will give you an idea of Read’s range:
And because I’m such a sucker for duets, here’s a duet with Julia Read and her friend Melody Olsen.
Up next was Lucius, the project of Brooklynites Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. In the week or two leading up to the show, Lucius popped up a surprising number of times: Once as a recommendation by Sea of Bees’ Jules Baenziger, then by a stranger, and later in an email from a friend. Having heard just one song, the straight forward, pleasantly catchy “Don’t Just Sit There,” I was pretty excited.
I was not, however, prepared.
Five people – not two – crowded onto the small stage. And what was this? Wolfe and Laessig were dressed in what I can only describe as ironic hipster chic – short, tight black dresses, knee-high boots, huge dangling earrings, and ridiculous plastic shades.
Fun for a press photo, way too much for a show, their matching look seemed to clash with their music. (Let’s be real. You’re not Austra.) I wanted the two women in the above video. Simple, lovely, stripped down, and honest.
The other big surprise was that contrary to my initial impression, Lucius’s sound is actually quite varied. Far from focusing on a simple, pop aesthetic, Lucius also has a bluesy side. Evidence:
Can you hear the hesitation in the audience? Yeah, not what I was expecting. I struggled through the first few songs, the weakest part of their set in my opinion. But toward the end, something clicked… or maybe they just took off their glasses.
Much better, right? The audience agrees. Lose the annoying shtick and nail down your sound, Lucius. You have something good buried under there.
Then there’s Aly Spaltro, aka Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Don’t let the cutesy name fool you. Her music has teeth. You might get hurt. Seriously.
Accompanied by just a single guitar, Spaltro challenges the expectations of the the innocuous “singer/songwriter” tag. One minute she sings softly and sweetly, and the next she runs her voice raw. Add her amazingly evocative lyrics, and this girl is a beautiful whirlwind of talent and emotions.
By the time You Won’t had assembled, I was pretty worn out and only stayed for the first 4 or so songs of their set. By far the most conventional indie folk group of the evening (and no doubt the reason for much of the crowd), I expect these guys will get pretty big in the coming months.
Like what you hear? You can buy (or stream) their recently released album here.