September 5, 2012
Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC
By Tommy Kurosawa
The shared experience of a live music show is something long past. The same is true for a random trip to the local multiplex on a saturday afternoon. With the advent of internet -- film and music at our fingertips, Pirate Bay and the like -- well, we can find anything our "hip" friend tells us to download and devour. The problem is the lack of effort it took to find the diamond in the dust. Let's face it, if it rained Van Gogh's every morning, that walk through the Louvre wouldn't be so precious.
CUT TO: A child pointing at the wall of the museum nonchalantly mutters, "Mommy, one of those fell in the backyard yesterday" as others shuffle past the Monet.
But occasionally, still, we stumble into the arena blindly. Not because it was hyped up by some local promoter. Not because the "cool kid" with no musical talent down the street championed it. No, simply because, it was a Wednesday night in Chapel Hill and you had nothing to lose.
Sarah Shook took the stage first with her haunting take on American-ized ballads. I have seen her with a full band before (Sarah Shook and The Devil), gushing the desperation of Hank Williams and bleeding the sharpness of Wanda Jackson. However, solo, Shook was a lullaby in waiting -- smart songs, soulfully stripped down to the bone -- all while coddling a large, hollow bodied guitar.
Mariee Sioux was second. This is where Shook's subtle genius became palpable, for without her as an opener, Sioux's entry into the foray would have seemed less grande. With primal and delicate lyrics floating over Joan Baez-esque finger picking, Sioux hypnotized the crowd. There were songs of blood and flowers and teeth. There were songs where verses dissipated into choruses -- maybe -- or perhaps there was no chorus at all (you lost track while the siren whispered something about "tongues").
But Arborea was the headliner. Now, after the openers' songs had faded into the walls. Now, after the crowd had thought better of the spell they had been seduced by earlier, a new magic filled the space. Arborea's primitive banjo coupled with Robert-Johnson-pact-made-with-the-devil electric guitar, fuzz wailing over the sweetness of Shanti's Bathsheeba-esque vocals, now, this is what we had stumbled into: like staring at the taken woman, beautiful, and bathing upon the roof.
Most of us sat silent. Oh, we laughed at the banter in between -- and the technical problems. And a few drunks chattered in and out during the set. But the most of us listened spellbound.
We were haunted by the sound. We were in love with the moment. We were amazed that these things can still happen.
Pictured Above: Mariee Sioux at Nightlight in Chapel Hill, NC on September 5th, 2012.