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all words: Andy Hess

“This is a sad song. But it’s not about anyone in this room. I love you guys,” opener Sharon Van Etten quipped before she finished her set short lived but jaw dropping set.

There was a palpable sweetness in Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s performance Wednesday night. It makes the downtrodden folk songs she plays even more heartbreaking because you have to wonder who would hurt someone so instantly likeable.

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image: http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/

When she took the stage with her guitar, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve been to shows like this before. Some are great and most are okay. This particular show felt like you were watching a good friend perform. The banter was friendly and jovial as Van Etten talked between songs and told a few stories including when she was booed mercilessly at a metal festival in Massachusetts.

Most of the material from the evening was from her quite terrific 2009 release Because I Was In Love. While the deck is stacked with notable releases from her contemporaries (Alela Diane and Marissa Nadler come to mind), Van Etten’s music is elegant and has depth that many sad girls who play guitars do not.

But the family affair that started with Van Etten’s intimate songs, ended with a rousing bang and the swapping ideas of where to eat after the show (Ben’s Chili Bowl and The Diner were obvious choices, but I prefer Bob and Edith’s in Alexandria) during Megafaun’s set.

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According to the band, this tour is their first as headliners and they took full advantage of making it count. The North Carolina trio took the stage with a blistering set of experimental folk music — filled with noise experiments and free jazz breakdowns peppered throughout the hour-plus set.

Leaving the show I felt that Megafaun’s set went a little long and they tended to go noodling a few times throughout the show. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to nerves. I probably won’t be spending money on their records, but the charm lies in their stage presence. They like to break down the wall between audience member and the person on stage.

Multiple times throughout the set they engaged the audience in trivia questions for soft drinks (“We’re giving away the rider folks. There’s no way we can drink this much Sprite.”) and at one point unplugged their instruments mid song, jumped into the crowd and finished it there (during the first and last song of the set). If you missed them this time, don’t be a fool and miss them next time.

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