all words: Erin Holmes
all photos: Blink OfAnEye
It had been a long January, full of weird weather, head colds, general malaise, and this past Friday showed that my February might be following suit. The day’s temperature surged us into the sixties only to drop us on our heads into another chilly evening. It is February, after all. Feeling another cold coming on, I opted for some Captain Morgan and Vanilla Chai (don’t knock it ‘til ya try it) at 9:30 Club’s upstairs coffee bar to try to simulate the warmth I wanted to feel again before the music started.
OKAY WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH KATHLEEN EDWARDS’ PERFORMANCE?! I tie the two very closely together… Some nights you need to dance off your frustrations, then others you sit back while the music does the moving for you. Kathleen Edwards, her band, and Hannah Georgas (as well as my hot alcoholic beverage) offered me the latter experience with a genuinely emotional, heartrending night of live music perfect for February 3rd.
“Welcome back to DC!” someone cried from the middle of the full crowd.
Kathleen Edwards responded genuinely, “Thank you, DC is so good to me! What can I do…” and took the moment to briefly discuss her new album. She naturally tends to make honest, heartfelt music about what is going on in her life, resulting in a minor panic attack before her most recent album ‘Voyageur’ had hit: “My shit is gonna be out for everyone to hear… I have made it everyone else’s business.” Her subsequent “fuck it” attitude may be a reflection of some major, undeniable changes happening…
She was speaking the truth when she admitted her personal life is literally entwined in her music. 2011 was a big year for Edwards both personally and professionally— including the end of her marriage with collaborator Colin Cripps and a new collaborator slash love interest Justin Vernon (yes, THAT Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, nominated for some Grammys, you might’ve seen him on SNL over the weekend, frequently collaborates with Kanye West… you get it, he’s a big deal). With Vernon as a co-producer and contributor on the new album and a general influence on her life, a shift has taken place in her sound. Heavy production and rich arrangements now fill in around the simpler alt-country-folk, which ultimately remains the driving force of her live show, mostly because her band is composed of bearded, flannel men and her old songs still make up a fair amount of the setlist (Friday’s tally: 10 from ‘Voyageur,’ 6 from older albums, and 1 Bangles cover, which I’ll get to later).
With this general theme of “out with the old and in with new,” I was surprised to see so many… old people at this show. Old people holding each other, old people kissing; old people jamming down in the front row, old people seriously losing their minds and thrashing about as they grip onto the railings of the balcony. Okay, they honestly weren’t that old, but there was some serious above-middle-aged grooving happening at this show, and EXTREMELY more dudes than I expected. Maybe they heard it was a good place to find sad girls drinking chai? Cradling my own Captain and Chai, I gravitated between thinking “This is weird” and “This is awesome” to between “Keep it in your pants, Grandpa” and “Get ittttt, white-haired lady! I respect the shit out of you.” Again, hyperbole (in most cases).
The best crowd reactions occurred during Edwards’ older hits such as “In State” and “12 Bellevue.” I cannot stress enough how much these were not my favorite, they bordered on straight-up country at times in a twangy, bad way… so I blame credit the older fan base for the positive reactions who were rocking out vs. us new fans sprinkled in just wanting to hear more ‘Voyageur.’ Edwards seemed to be aware of this, thanking the crowd for listening along to new material for most of the evening as they called out for more old (requests heard often for old hit “The Cheapest Key” were never met). Even when Edwards played the heavily-requested “Six O’clock News” for the encore with a smile on her face, I felt her heart was not entirely in it. She actually belched loudly and admirably during another old hit, the VERY-country “Back To Me,” not without apologizing and cracking jokes while the band kept going. Her somewhat crude and quirky nature made the night’s banter very enjoyable, everyone played along and wanted to be her best friend by the middle of the set (or maybe that was just me).
The more obvious effect of this “out with the old and in with the new” theme can be found in the lyrics of ‘Voyageur.’ What better example than her latest single “Change The Sheets”: “Change this feeling under my feet; Change the sheets and then change me.” “This song,” she said before embarking into that thirteenth song of the night, “is about doing some laundry.” It was a highlight of the evening, along with the similarly-stirring “Pink Champagne” and “A Soft Place To Land.” The clear lyrics express discontent and moving on, while the full Justin-Vernon-produced sound makes them no less intimate, especially performed live.
Kathleen Edwards is a skilled musician— she played a variety of guitars as well as violin— but the strength of her performance lies in her unique vocals. This was clear on my other favorites of the night, an actually great old song of hers “Hockey Skates” which she performed solo and acoustic, and the last of the night, a Bangles cover “September Gurls” which she made a duet with opener Hannah Georgas (“or as we call her in Canada, ‘Hannah GORGEOUS!’”). Georgas herself has sweet vocals, her own thirty minute set was a treat, and she provided accompanying vocals for most of Edwards’ set. The combination of Edwards and Georgas’ own 80s-ultra-female- meets-modern-folk vocals made for some great harmonizing on this last song, which they really should record. Plus— back to me— my mom played The Bangles’ ‘Different Light’ throughout my entire childhood, so this “September Gurls” cover was the cherry on top of my emotional sundae that was Kathleen Edwards’ concert at 9:30 Club.
- Empty Threat
- Asking For Flowers
- Pink Champagne
- In State
- A Soft Place to Land
- Hockey Skates
- House Full Of Empty Rooms
- Goodnight, California
- 12 Bellevue
- Change The Sheets
- Back To Me
- Going To Hell
- Six O’ clock News
- September Gurls (Bangles Cover), duet with Hannah Georgas