Laetitia Tamko is on fire. Born and raised in Cameroon, the New York City based artist released her first EP as Vagabon in 2014 after learning guitar from a series of instructional videos. This year, however, marked the release of Tamko’s first LP, Infinite Worlds, and her subsequent arrival in the spotlight. Tamko is immensely talented, and every part of Infinite Worlds has been crafted with a great deal of attention to detail. Her voice is at the forefront throughout the album’s quick 8-track clip, and her sensitive phrasing and cutting lyrics are as immediately recognizable as her truly inimitable skill as a guitarist. Tamko’s talent has not been ignored by established indie artists either – Greta Kline, aka Frankie Cosmos, contributed backing vocals to the album, with other contributors including members of the chiptune rock project Crying.
More than six months after the release of Infinite Worlds, Vagabon has finally made it to D.C. Her current tour with opener Nnamdi Ogbonnaya marks her first ever international outing, and if her appearance at Black Cat serves as an indicator of her live ability and staying power as an artist, Vagabon will continue making headlines for years to come.
After Ogbonnaya’s opening set, Vagabon took the stage. The energy in the room shifted immediately, and the sense of expectation was palpable. “Cold Apartment” was an apt choice for an opening song – Tamko’s voice stood front and center with a warmth and intimacy that pushed the performance beyond even the polish of the recorded version of the track. The earlier songs in Vagabon’s set were plagued with several technical difficulties, but Tamko and her band handled said difficulties with grace and aplomb. Tamko’s brief dialogue with the audience between songs was deeply endearing, and the size and intimacy of the space itself lent even the time between songs an air of camaraderie and inclusion. Tamko’s energy never faltered, carrying her through powerhouse standouts like “The Embers” and “Minneapolis,” supported the entire time by a truly capable band. Vagabon is, at this point, several weeks into her tour, and the cohesion and energy demonstrated by both her and her band are hallmarks of truly seasoned performers.
The one disappointment of the evening was, surprisingly, the venue itself. The Black Cat is an incredible venue, but the choice to book Vagabon for the backstage is a bizarre one. An artist as engaging and well liked as Tamko seems an odd choice for a room so small, and the lack of horizontal real estate prevented her energy and stage presence from being front and center at all times. Regardless of the limitations of the venue, however, Vagabon’s performance was truly a memorable once.