A lot of Big Thief's content sounds surface-jovial but is instead unendurably gloomy.
Messy, free-ranging, raw-boned music that sometimes comes with an explicit-language warning. Big Thief makes music that hangs together on a thread of workman-like monotony, using chords in progressions that were hoary and predictable way back during the 1960s when the Band invented them. But the songs blaze alive abruptly with unforetold harmony at the refrain. A lot of the content, like the Band’s, sounds surface-jovial but is instead unendurably gloomy. Songs, for instance, about the one big childhood hurt that thrashes an entire life.
...by Big Thief
Adrienne Lenker, from Minneapolis, is the quartet’s chief songwriter, singer, and front person. At 23, she is a limber, flowing interpreter of her own songs. One gets the feeling she was a folk singer in another life. She did, after all, win the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition in 2013, but she escaped the music industry cul-de-sac afforded most two-chord open-mic addicts via the command and the imagination of her singing. That, and she learned to write great songs. Lenker released her first CD at age 14 with a follow-up at 15. She won a full ride to the Berklee College of Music, graduated, then moved to New York in 2013 and released what she considers to be her true debut solo album, Hours Were the Birds.
- Friday, March 10, 2017, 8 p.m.
3615 El Cajon Boulevard,
Big Thief was a duo at first: Lenker and like-minded guitarist Buck Meek. They worked the coffeehouse circuit for a couple of years before adding Max Oleartchik as bassist and drummer/producer James Krivchenia. To date, the band has but a single album to its name, Masterpiece, released last year to much hoopla. It earned 7.7 out of a possible 10 points from the online reviewers at Pitchfork; Rolling Stone and Spin likewise favored the album. Big Thief probably won’t change the world, no, but I do believe that these are songs that people might still be singing 20, even 40 years from now.
Fell Runner and Henry Jamison also perform.