Friday, September 06, 2013

Hopscotch 2013 Night 1: Nathan Bowles, Angel Olsen

Photos by Kevin Norris
In the quiet confines of the Fletcher Opera House, Nathan Bowles kicked off 2013’s Hopscotch festival with solo banjo pieces both original and classic. Bowles welcoming nature, his intricate music, and the venue itself made for an intimate performance that felt more like somebody’s living room than a music festival.

It’s the kind of set that feels like it could only happen at Hopscotch. Bowles represented both the roots of regions music with well-known songs like “Liza Jane,” but his original music pushes bluegrass and folk to its boundaries. Bowed banjo, multiple tunings, and hand percussion were just a few of the techniques Bowles employed to turn a single banjo into trance-inducing music.

At the opera house, Bowles was followed by another striking performer, Angel Olsen. She performed solo with just her guitar and her unique voice. Olsen sings biting lullabies about love lost and she holds back her vocals through nearly closed teeth before swing suddenly into the higher ranges. She often uses a quick vibrato that is somehow both powerful and coy.

Olsen started the set stoically, but gradually opened up the crowd. Small smirks flashed across her face as she sang particular phrases and soon enough the ice was broken. She shared laughs with the crowd when a cute cell phone chirp interrupted a song. After the build to “Creator, Destroyer’s” “Fuck you” finale, Olsen laughed off how seriously the song is taken saying she still talked to the man the song is about.

“It’s just a song,” she said. It wasn’t just a song on Thursday night. It was a memorable moment in a festival that’s sure to full of them.

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