Julien Baker’s self-proclaimed “bummer tunes” sounded especially melancholic inside the historic and grandiose Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Almost as if her sound was meant to be heard in such a seasoned venue that has undoubtedly seen and heard the heartbreaks and joys Julien writes about. Supported by Petal and Half Waif, it was a beautiful evening full of emotion and passion from a strong female line-up.
Petal’s Kiley Lotz, though sometimes accompanied by additional musicians on stage, opened the night standing alone on stage presenting a set of beautifully delicate and melodic songs, switching between a guitar and keyboard, but never abandoning the intensity.
Though accompanied by a bassist and a drummer, Half Waif’s front-woman Nandi Rose Plunkett had all eyes on her with beautifully designed lighting and her equally beautiful voice and movement.
At first, Julien Baker seemed so small standing alone on such a vast open stage, filled only with a mic stand and keyboard on an oriental rug with an electric guitar on a stand at the far back of the stage. Though, not for long, as her voice quickly filled the void space as she deeply and with emotion belted songs like Sprained Ankle’s “Rejoice” and numerous others. Her set alternated the more quiet and slow songs of Sprained Ankle, with the more robust and complex songs of her sophomore album, Turn Out the Lights, released October 27, 2017.
Julien Baker attracts an audience that connects deeply to her lyrical content and music and it’s almost as if watching her play is a cathartic experience. The crowd was quiet and respectful, paying diligent attention and gasping at the beginning chords of recognizable songs. Her music hosts themes of heartbreak and depression, but delicately balanced out by weaving in sentiments of religion and joy as well.
For the final songs of her set, she invited violinist Camille Faulkner to accompany her on stage, adding an additional layer of complexity and emotion to the songs. As an encore, Nandi of Halfwaif and Kiley of Petal joined Julien and Camille on stage to perform the final song as a quartet, sealing the evening with beautiful harmonizing, a hug between the ladies, and a final bow.