Photo of Julien Baker by Andrew Le
Julien Baker, Half Waif, and Adam Torres came to Portland on December 10th, and put on a captivating show at the Aladdin Theater.
Fans began lining up in the ice-cold December winds an hour before doors until finally making it inside of the cozy seated venue for the sold out show. The Aladdin is set up a lot like a high school auditorium, but has a balcony with more seats, and the floor in front of the stage was open for standing. Despite how large the room felt upon entering, each artist made the show feel much more intimate.
Singer/songwriter Adam Torres opened the show. He left the crowd in awe of his soothing acoustic guitar work, and impressive vocal range. Torres put a lot of care and attention into every note he played, and began setting a mood that would fill the room the rest of the night. Like all the artists on this tour, Torres released new music earlier this year, so if it wasn’t on your radar before, definitely allow yourself to get lost in I Came to Sing the Song.
Being completely unfamiliar with Half Waif, I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized they’re a three-piece, and their music had a nice groove to it that got everyone swaying around. It was obvious that many different influences combine to form Half Waif’s sound, and it makes them quite unlike anyone else in my music library. Each element was fun to watch come to life, but especially the drums and electronics. Between songs throughout their set, listeners kept talking about how cool and different Adan Carlo’s bass looked. The band played a new song which was just vocalist Nandi Rose Plunkett singing and playing keys. She commented on being especially happy from the energy in the room as well as her own energy that came from being overly exhausted. If you’re unfamiliar with Half Waif, their 2017 EP, form/a, is a great place to start with their music.
This was my first time getting to see Julien Baker perform because past shows here have been at 21+ venues, and her set was better than I could’ve imagined. As soon as she took the stage, the energy that had grown in the room throughout the night instantly multiplied. It was so powerful, but so comforting. It was a unifying feeling that was most prominent as we instinctively paid attention to Baker and those around us to find when to keep our singing to a whisper, and when to turn the room into a soft choir supporting Baker’s voice. It was a heartwarming reminder of the community and togetherness that live music encourages, and it left me feeling at peace, by the end of the night.
A few songs into her set, Baker ran into some technical issues when her guitar cable gave out which resulted in fearful reactions from fans who thought she wouldn’t be able to continue. She lightheartedly assured everyone that she comes to her shows prepared, and quickly resolved the problem and continued her set. Most of the time, she kept moving from one song to the next, but when she’d occasionally talk, the crowd primarily responded with soft laughter, and someone even encouraged more banter which made Baker laugh. These few interactions made the room feel smaller, and made her set that much more personal.
Much like listening to her records, it gave me chills to hear Baker perform live, especially during songs such as “Hurt Less” and “Rejoice.” Highlights included “Go Home” from Sprained Ankle, “Funeral Pyre” from the 7” she released at the beginning of this year, and the title track from Turn Out The Lights.
Of the roughly 200 shows I’ve attended, seeing Julien Baker, Half Waif, and Adam Torres was one of the most meaningful and moving experiences I’ve had at a concert. Very little compares to the feeling in the Aladdin Theater in Portland on the night of December 10, 2017.