Katherine Burcham showed Pick-Up a little love as she went out to see Sharon Van Etten last Thursday at the 9:30 Club, providing us with some quality coverage.
All photos and words: Katherine Burcham
Sharon Van Etten stopped by the 9:30 Club on Thursday night for the first show of her fall tour with Damien Jurado. It was hardly a high-attendance affair – elbow room was easy to come by, even with the stage extended well onto the main floor. Still, the Club felt like a fitting choice for Van Etten, whose following has steadily been growing since the release of sophomore album Epic (2010) and this year’s Tramp.
Just last year, Van Etten could be found playing the likes of the comparably tiny Red Palace. It was an intimate setting for an intimate performance. Luckily for all of us there on Thursday, the upgrade in venue didn’t compromise Van Etten’s ability to make us feel she was sharing her deepest thoughts with us in confidence. The connection with the audience was, in part, owed to the content of her music – contemplative, vulnerable, unafraid to deal with themes of loss and helplessness; listening to one of Van Etten’s songs is like reading our own journals from times we’d perhaps rather forget (if only we were all gifted such eloquence). The relatability of audience to performer was reinforced by the honesty with which Van Etten delivered each song, whether fragile or frustrated.
Lest I turn any potential concertgoers off by making the show sound like a total sob fest, rest assured Van Etten balanced emotional catharsis with her affable personality. If one change has been continually apparent through her recent performances, it’s her growing comfort in front of a room of strangers. Van Etten displayed a sense of humor that listeners might not expect given her music, pondering what sort of commercial deals she might earn by changing “Save Yourself” to the more Gillette-friendly “Shave Yourself.” At the end of the night, she dedicated encore song “One Day” to a father and his daughters who have become fixtures at her DC shows. Afterwards, she greeted that family and a lengthy queue of fans one-by-one, accepting every effusive compliment (including, admittedly, my own) before heading back on the road.
Not to do Damien Jurado any injustice by confining him to an afterthought, but his own words express the match he was for Van Etten better than this first-time listener’s ever could: “These don’t sound like hit songs; they sound like wrist-cutting songs. . . . I’m not bummed out, I promise.”
If this tour is making a stop in your city, save yourself hundreds in therapy and take your family, bottled emotions, and potentially valuable autograph-able razors to see it.