Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Katie Krulock

Watch This: Vol. 136

The past week saw a lot of great live videos swimming to the shore from the depths of nowhere. There were outstanding featured performances in those clips from Adir L.C., The Curls, Lydia Loveless, Courtney Barnett, Ultimate Painting, Dogbreth, Los Blenders, Kinda Rad Kinda Sad, Summer Twins, Rich Girls, Slingshot Dakota, The Staves, Caveman, Eric Bachmann, Brendan Canning, Lisa Prank, Vetiver, Paridisia, Porches, Mimes of Wine, SALES, Typesetter, and Julien Baker. For the 136th installment of this series, the attention turns to a handful of folk-influenced artists who are either making their mark or reaping what they’ve sown throughout their careers. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, take a breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy (OpenAir)

Margaret Glaspy‘s had a deeply impressive 2016. The young songwriter released a breakthrough record, continuously boasts one of the better live shows on the market, and has handled the transition into the public eye with the poised confidence of a seasoned veteran. Here, Glaspy gives Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir a powerful look at that live show, landing a few knockout punches throughout a rousing four-song performance.

2. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse + Leaf (Set List)

No band has been written about or praised more by this site than Tenement, who have been the consummate example of what this site was built around supporting. Through that band’s decade-long existence, bandleader Amos Pitsch has been involved in a number of other projects but something about Dusk feels just a little bit different. The band’s comprised of several of the most impressive musical figures in Wisconsin’s relatively isolated Fox Valley area, whose singular visions act in complementary tandem. Beautiful harmonies, a sense of history, and a tenacious commitment help define the band’s identity. All of those traits are on full display for this gorgeous two-song turn-in for Wisconsin Public Radio’s excellent Set List series.

3. Green Dreams – Don’t Pray For Me (Katie Krulock)

Ever since the release of 2014’s excellent Rich Man, Poor Man, Green Dreams have been relatively quiet. All of that’s about to change as the band preps a new release, which the band provided a tantalizing glimpse at through the form of this live acoustic video. The typically ferocious project reveals their pensive side on the lilting “Don’t Pray For Me”, while still retaining the overwhelming narrative darkness that’s been so prominent in their past releases. Beautifully lensed and delicately performed, the video’s a powerful reminder of Green Dreams’ numerous gifts.

4. Bernie & the Wolf (DZ Records)

For more than three years, Bernie & the Wolf have quietly been perfecting a mix of influences and forming a sound that’s not too distant from the best of Saddle Creek’s offerings. Open, sprawling, and teeming with distinctly American influences (and history), their songs are immediately warmly familiar and entirely winsome. DZ Records recently capture the band delivering an impassioned set, keying in on “Ethyl”, “Catch Some”, and “Pretty On Me”, three genuine standouts from what promises to be one of the best releases of its given year.

5. Bon Iver (SPIN)

Typically, these spots are reserved for unheralded artists, independent-leaning moments, and videos where the performers aren’t hundreds of feet away. It takes a lot to overturn any of those qualifications and overturning all of them is essentially unprecedented. Even though Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires live unveiling of the forthcoming record — something I was fortunate enough to attend — was a genuinely Big Moment that will be exhaustively covered by nearly every serious music publication, the way it was introduced felt intrinsically connected to the foundations of this site.

As a person who’s lived the vast majority of life in a small Wisconsin town, watching someone like Justin Vernon selflessly elevate an enitre artistic community has been heartening. Watching him debut an entire album live, in front of a hushed audience of thousands, at a genre-balanced festival he founded in his own small Wisconsin hometown was actively inspiring. While Vernon’s rollout campaign for Bon Iver’s forthcoming 22, A Million was designed to benefit the projects’s chosen slot, it was also an effort to highlight the other artists (like Tenement and Tickle Torture) who were a part of the Eaux Claires festival.

In that methodology, Vernon’s added another heartfelt notch in his continuing efforts to expand Wisconsin’s woefully underrated music community by any means at his disposal. On top of all of that, though, the actual performance of 22, A Million was an unforgettable event that was enhanced by the location (Bon Iver’s music has always been perfectly suited to Wisconsin’s wilderness) and the weather.

Just before the set began, what had been a steady downpour of rain lasting hours had suddenly stopped and night had fully descended. Throughout the set, there was an eerie calm that was punctuated by the noise of crickets that had taken residence in and outside of the festival grounds, creating an ambient wellspring of noise that further enhanced the glitchy electronics that permeate throughout 22, A Million (they became especially evident during the quietest moments, rounding out those songs in an unforgettable fashion).

While all of the main set can be heard and seen below in a video that SPIN livestreamed from the crowd, the encore set (which isn’t part of the video) provided what may have been the most defining moment of the festival.

Playing a selection of songs that wildly varied from their original versions, the band pulled out a fairly faithful rendition of “Creature Fear” that culminated in an apocalyptic wall of noise outro section. In the lead-up to those breathtaking final moments, a blisteringly intense lightning storm had erupted behind a heavy cloud, providing an unexpected assist that felt entirely in tune with the weekend’s joyous collaborative efforts. In that moment, the audience, the band, the city of Eau Claire, and Wisconsin itself became part of a unified moment that transcended easy category, leaving an indelible mark on Eau Claires, on Eaux Claires, and on everyone who took a moment to take in their surroundings.

Watch This: Vol. 92

Every Sunday, Watch This features five of the given week’s best live performance videos. These can be full performances hosted by radio stations, individual songs shot by individual people, or just about anything in between. Normally, these have skewed more towards the raucous but this will be one of the rare entries of the series that’s much more attuned to the quieter side of things. Even the bulk of this week’s honorable mentions where much quieter than usual and, as usual, it was a strong week that included a handful of gems from the likes of Frankie Cosmos, Abi ReimoldSpeedy Ortiz, Chumped, Lauryn Peacock, Nuu, The Wooden Sky, La Luz, Charlie Parr, LOTT, Matt Hectorne, and Wolf Alice. Between those combined efforts and the five featured clips below, it’s been another very strong week for live music. By all accounts, it’s a lot to go over. So, as always, sit back, adjust the volume, zone in, and Watch This.

1. Izzy True – Future War (Don Giovanni)

One of the year’s more astonishing EP’s, Izzy True’s Troll, marked the arrival of a significant songwriting talent: Isabel Reidy. Having the benefit of a wealth of experience fronting bands, Reidy’s turned solo and the effects have been spellbinding. In this Don Giovanni-presented clip, Reidy performs an arresting version of “Future War”, exuding a calm confidence that should go a long way in ensuring the emerging songwriting a long future.

2. Natalie Prass – Why Don’t You Believe In Me + Never Over You (La Blogotheque) 

Having already earned a few entries in Watch This, Natalie Prass‘ innate gift as a performer shouldn’t be so continuously surprising but every time one of Prass’ more intimate videos surfaces, it’s jarring. There’s something inherently special about Prass’ recent work and the songwriter wields that considerable gift with a poised assurance that quickly translates into mesmerizing performances. Here, in what’s easily one of La Blogotheque’s finest uploads this year, Prass and a guitarist deliver extraordinary takes on “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” and “Never Over You” in a warmly lit clip that feels perfectly suited to Prass’ aesthetic.

3. Try the Pie – Old Wounds (Katie Krulock)

Domestication continued Saliinas’ staggering winning streak with aplomb earlier this year and it’s remained a favorite among most of those who have heard it since its time of release. It’s an incredible collection of songs and most of them pack a serious punch, something that gets emphasized when they’re stripped bare. A solo take on “Old Wounds” exposes the naked emotion that acts as one of the song’s more prominent driving forces. It’s a gripping look into the mechanics of one of today’s more promising acts.

4. Screaming Females – Little Anne (Don Giovanni)

Having long established themselves as a staple of Watch This, Screaming Females continue to find inventive ways to get into this series. When they’ve earned a feature spot they’ve done it through exceptionally varied modes: DIY clips, full performances, radio sessions… essentially every single mode of performance video that’s been included throughout Watch This‘ existence. In this week’s second clip to arrive courtesy of Don Giovanni, Marissa Paternoster- a once in a generation talent- performs “Little Anne” solo, centered and sitting between a silent rhythm section. Paternoster’s ability to command attention is on full display here and the end result is something that’s surprisingly tough to shake.

5. Eskimeaux (NPR)

The Epoch collective has been responsible for an extraordinary body of work that only manages to keep improving. Continuing a number of seriously incredible projects (and records) among their ranks, Eskimeaux’s O.K. is the crown jewel. Easily one of 2015’s best records, it’s a sharply intuitive examination of personal grief, longing, and conflict. While every song on the record’s a perfectly crafted piece of music containing layers of impressive instrumentation and multitudes of meaning, three of the finest are “Folly”, “A Hug Too Long”, and “I Admit I’m Scared”. All three get performed here for NPR’s deservedly vaunted Tiny Desk series, creating an effective snapshot of a band- and collective- in the midst of something that feels otherworldly.