Concert Roundup: May 2011

[ It’s been quiet around here lately, thanks to real lives and jobs and all of that, so I figured I’d dig up some half-finished posts of old news and compile them all together for a large post of old news and photos. You may see more posts like these as I continue to edit photos and write in a very untimely manner. ]

Chris Pureka, Holcombe Waller; SPACE, 5/4/11
Chris Pureka

This is the second time that I’ve seen Chris Pureka at SPACE, although this time she came with a full backing band, rather than doing just a solo show. Pureka’s performances always feel very honest and genuine; her songs about lost love and doomed or dysfunctional relationships can strike a chord with just about anyone.  Her setlist largely drew from her latest album, 2010’s How I Learned To See In The Dark, but the real highlight of the show lies in two things: the strength of Pureka’s delivery, and her delightful storytelling.  She’s an expert at conveying emotion in her songs, both through lyrics and her voice.  You can very easily feel the pain and hurt that’s gone into writing these songs.  And Pureka is true to her roots as a folk musician, easily weaving in stories and anecdotes throughout her set.  She has an easy way of bantering with the crowd, making her one of the rare musicians I’ve encountered who can make you feel like she’s talking directly to you.

Holcombe Waller

Holcombe Waller was a new discovery for me, and I was infinitely pleased with his set.  He’s a Portland-based musician who reminds me of Rufus Wainwright, in a way, to give you a point of reference.  Waller’s lyrics are deep and searching, and his voice soars sometimes.  There was something truly beautiful about his songs, many of which offered a bit of a more hopeful, upbeat counterpoint prior to Peruka’s set of gritty honesty.

See my photos from the show here on Flickr.

Chris Pureka: Official Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | Store
Holcombe Waller:  Official Website | Facebook | Twitter

Vandaveer; Empty Bottle, 5/11/11
Vandaveer

“What song do you want to hear?” Mark Charles Heidinger asked midway through Vandaveer’s set at the Empty Bottle. It’s pretty standard for audiences to endlessly shout out song requests, but less common for artists to actually shuffle around their setlists to accommodate the crowd.  The show was woefully under-attended, a fact that I’ll chalk up to it being a late show on a weeknight.  It was worth the lack of sleep to be wowed by Heidinger and Rose Guerin, however.  Their voices are both magical and the songwriting is so, so smart.  Though they were touring in promotion of their newest album, Dig Down Deep, they didn’t shy away from performing old favorites, too.  The duo closed the night out by unplugging and coming down onto the floor, crowd gathered around in a semi-circle, as they wowed us with just their voices, an acoustic guitar, and the tapping of toes to keep time.

See some photos from the show here on Flickr.

Vandaveer: Official Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | Store

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Nathaniel Rateliff; Schubas, 5/14/11
Jessica Lea Mayfield

I’ve seen Jessica Lea Mayfield several times over the past couple of years, but I feel like she shined the brightest at this show, the first headlining gig of hers that I’ve caught.  The smaller stage of Schubas suited her much better than the larger venues (Lincoln Hall, Metro) I’ve seen her in.  Performing with a full band, Mayfield and company filled the room, even on quieter numbers.  The crowd was a bit rowdy, but they loved her music, with many people singing along to every word.  Mayfield’s music is dark and deeply personal: she writes what she knows, and what she knows could absolutely break your heart.

Nathaniel Rateliff

Nathaniel Rateliff reminded me of the guys I grew up with: a litle rough around the edges, tattoos and scruffy facial hair, worn shirt and work boots and tattoos.  None of the guys I grew up with ever sang such rich songs, though.  Rateliff’s voice is rough and weary, with just a hint of a twang buried in there.  He strikes me as the type to be fronting a rock band, but he’s not.  It’s just him and a guitar and some intricate little songs about loss and ache and life.

See more photos from the show on Flickr.

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Official Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | Store
Nathaniel Rateliff: Official Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter