It was just one of those nights this past Thursday evening…a biting and bitter cold that kept most folks at home and under the covers. Not this guy though, nope. Me and a few other diehards, and god bless each and every one of you, made the pilgrimage down to the hotbed of culture in Hamden, CT’s very own industrial park that houses the one and only all ages venue The Space. Sure it wasn’t “The Who at the Kingdome, or Kiss at the Coliseum” but it was three bands marked most by their singularity rather than their hit singles. Sadie Dupuis of recent indie darlings Speedy Ortiz has assembled an all female indie pop group who perform under the moniker SAD13, which is of course internet for SADIE. Joining her/them on the first leg of their first tour was Lætitia Tamko a.k.a. Vagabon and Sam Evian.
It is entirely obnoxious to state that you “never show up for the opening bands”, and while this is generally a falsehood in my case, I will admit to never ever being an hour early to a show either. I arrived 30 mins early to a show I originally wasn’t going to be able to attend only to learn that the show had been pushed back 30 minutes. Oh and did I happen to mention I was a bit sick and had forgotten my wallet at home? Seriously, it was just one of those nights. But things were looking up, I ran into a buddy who worked at the venue who vouched for me and then I remembered I had a few bucks stashed in my car for just this reason (which happens often). So I joined him over at the adjacent Outer Space for a beer and conversation to kill some time. So much for things looking up as I returned to The Space, still a bit early, desperately needing to use the bathroom. The door was closed and instead of knocking like any normal human being I tried the doorknob only to find it was open! Thank god, “oh no I am so sorry” I yelped as I opened the door on Sadie doing her makeup in the mirror. Sigh.
Once the music started, everything got much much better. Sam Evian got the evening started and to be honest set the bar pretty high as he and his bandmates performed to the 2 dozen or so of us as if it were a sold out crowd. I looked around and saw almost everyone in the room engaged to the degree that their faces reflected a genuine interest in what was happening on stage. Evian’s falsetto voice washed across the audience, as did his melodic 70’s folk style of guitar picking, which later switched to prog influenced jams with his bandmates. His vocal stylings range from Kurt Vile to the late Jeff Hanson while the music finds sonic similarities with experimentalists like The Plastic Ono Band and Chris Cohen, formerly of Deerhoof. I enjoyed Sam Evian’s set immensely and this is why you should never become one of those “I never show up for the opening bands” kind of person. Check out Sam Evian’s debut album Premium on Saddle Creek.
Lætitia Tamko was next to take the stage and take it she did. When Tamko, who goes by the name Vagabon, greeted the crowd with her timid soft spoken voice, I worried for her all alone on stage with little more than a guitar, keyboard, and sampler. Boy was I misguided. Lætitia moved back a couple of feet from the mic as she plucked her cherry red hollow body and belted out the saddest and most soulful lyrics reminiscent of a hybrid Nina Simone and Chan Marshall. Tamko’s sound was familiar but not derivative. Her songs were melancholic without being sappy. With each song Vagabon won the hearts and ears of the audience, at one point fessing up to playing a track for the first time ever live. While she seemed less than impressed with how she performed she commented the way I always hoped my students would when they try something new as she shared “that made me feel alive”. To say Vagabon was charming feels so condescending but she really won us over as a collective audience. Her earnest and heartfelt sound kept us close and hanging on each note from her guitar and out of her mouth. A truly genuine performance. Catch Vagabon live later this month in the Mid-West or listen to her EP Persian Garden over on her bandcamp page.
SAD13 were next. I don’t really know how to refer to them though, is it them or her? SAD13 is the social media/online identity of frontwoman Sadie Dupuis but in this instance is SAD13 the band of 4 women, three of whom are non-white. I mention this primarily because of where we are post 2016 presidential election but also because it remains the norm to have men involved in most bands. There’s something refreshing about SAD13’s all female lineup and freedom to shout “They still wanna lick my asshole. They still wanna buy what I’m selling them” during their performance of “Hype”. While there’s no question, from the articles and lyrics I’ve read, that Dupuis and company are advocates and even activists of the rights of all those who need a voice, particularly women and the LGBTQ community, I wonder about the persona being created by Dupuis in particular. I will admit that as a white male I am the last person on Earth who should be asking this question, but I am intrigued as to why she has chosen to front this new endeavor as a “girlie girl” with fake lashes, a lace dress, and makeup that would make Barbie envious. Then again, perhaps I have just answered my own inquiry. Regardless, the music was unquestionably strong and empowering. The power pop of old was infused with a sense of power and strength that I found encouraging while also signaling a dissonance with outward appearance. Did I mention the renaissance and reclamation of the keytar? While I felt there was a feeling of disdain, or perhaps disappointment, with the thin turn out SAD13 performed admirably despite the pains of being a relatively unknown entity on tour for the first time. I honestly hope that SAD13 will garner the support they deserve as they continue to make a mark for themselves and would encourage all of our readers to decide for yourself by checking them out live on their inaugural tour. For fans of Liz Phair and Speedy Ortiz, you won’t be disappointed.