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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Folk, Pop & Emily Jane White in Berkeley!

Emily Jane White (+ Eliza Rickman & Foxtails Brigade). The Starry Plough, Berkeley, July 5th

How many times you go to a concert almost without planning it, not knowing 2/3 of the artists attending and end the night with the feeling it couldn't be better? These were exactly my feelings on Friday, after our second gig in California. We discovered Emily Jane White was playing in Berkeley a few days ago (thanks to the really recommendable websites The Bay Bridged and Do415). We participated on the online contest the latest offered, and surprisingly, we were invited to the gig! Big thanks to Do415 for the chance!

Meeting Emily Jane White.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
To begin with, The Starry Plough didn't seem the best place to have a gig. An Irish pub with a history and charm (also good food), but small and, in principle, noisy, for what it was billed as triple night of chamber pop and Gothic folk. As we arrived, Emily Jane White (in a trio format) was doing soundcheck, and to our surprise, after finishing it, they had to dismount and leave their equipment around the nearest table to the stage. Uh-oh. Weird.

Eliza Rickman.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
As the space limitations provided the opportunity, I didn't miss the occasion to approach Ms. White (yes, call it a "fan moment" if you wish), but I didn't expect to be treated with such kindness. We chatted for a while, she told me about her immediate future plans (new record coming, rockier than usual, and when asked about the equipment's "odd situation" she just told me "welcome to America"). What a friendly and open artist. The expectations of the night "rocketed" from that on.

First act of the night was Eliza Rickman, a completely unknown artist for me (friend of Ms.White), that quickly revealed herself as an impressive folk singer with a very delicate voice and an intimate proposal. She announced her show as her first live performance, but alone with her accordion or pianola she demonstrated that aside talent, she has tones of charm, something that I'm pretty sure had something to do with the audience being silent (with very few exceptions) the whole event. Name to keep an eye on, for sure.

Foxtails Brigade. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
After Rickman it was time for Foxtails Brigade, a SF quartet leaded by another singular musician/artist, the LA-born Laura Weinbach. Billed as soaring chamber-pop, the band excelled musically. Quirky, changing and impeccably executed melodies, making adventurous (including drumming with a bottle) and baroque pop (mean it on a positive way, lush & atmospheric), propelled with Weinbach's vocals. Another one to watch.

And it came the hour of Emily Jane White. I saw her three years ago at Minifestival 2010, but that time was a stark solo performance, alone with her acoustic guitar. Enough to fall in love with her voice and fingerpicking technique, but also to remember the disrespectful & annoying chatting audience. Luckily, that was not the case in Berkeley. Helped by a drummer-keyboardist (she also played the keyboard and guitars) and a cellist-guitarist, in this occasion I enjoyed her talents in full mode. Richer sounded to wrap around her intense and dark folk proposal.

Emily Jane White. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Openers "Oh Katherine" and "Black Silk" from her latest release to date, "Ode to Sentience", settled the tone. Moody tunes that mute along with her voice, at times longing, fragile and nude, others bluesy and rougher, always soulful and vibrant, the gig served Emily and her band to try several new compositions, where a rockier side seems to gain weight. "Faster than the Devil" or "My Beloved" sounded astounding, proving the new direction suits her really well. Despite being played live for the first time, this two, "Silence" or closer "The Roses" looked as strong as already known numbers as "Requiem Waltz" or the magnificent "A Shot Rang Out". Promising promising record coming ahead fellows. My only complaint? The gig was too short. Usually one of the best symptoms a night has been great. It was.

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