The MBTA has failed me again. While on my way to catch Julia Easterlin at Cafe 939, the bus driver decided not to stop for me, denying me my chance to see her full set. Instead, I rushed in for the last few songs, soaking up as much as I could. While it may seem silly for me to write a review of a show that I didn’t fully see, those few songs had me completely hooked! The way Easterlin performs not only shows off her innovative and harmonious songwriting, but also allows for a live experience you can’t really find anywhere else.
Unlike most singer-songwriters, Ms. Easterlin utilizes a looping pedal to create a full, rich song out of nothing besides her voice. In a live setting, she slowly builds each track out of nothing before launching into it, showing just how many layers go into a fleshed-out track. Also, this helps the audience notice and treasure even the smallest samples she uses, sounds that may have faded into the background on a recorded track. The next act on the bill, headliner Mirah, was entertaining enough, but proved once again why Easterlin is such a standout performer. Mirah’s songs are charming, catchy, and lots of fun. But in the over-crowded singer-songwriter genre, usually a guitar and a good voice are sadly not enough. After seeing Mirah’s set, it only made me appreciate an innovator like Easterlin more.
Without having seen her whole set, I unfortunately cannot tell you much about her setlist or her interaction with the audience. What I can tell you, however, is that a Julia Easterlin show is a hell of a lot more interesting that most concerts you will see these days, and that you won’t want to miss her next time she is in town.