Wearing an Easy Street Records hoodie and sporting a fro-hawk, Kimya Dawson shivered in the cold with over 300 Isla Vista inhabitants on Wednesday night. In the corner of the driveway at the Biko Co-Op on Sueno Street, the stage setup resembled the office of Sherlock Holmes. And despite the freezing wind, there seemed to be a blanket of warmth welcoming Dawson and her openers.
Dawson commented early on that she liked playing houses more than “shitty rock clubs.” “I don’t play age-restricted places,” she said. “Houses are more comfy. There’s no grumpy people watching you just because it’s their job to.”
Kicking off the evening at 8 p.m. was Omnivore, hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their use of vintage telephones as mikes and their layering of vocals created a pleasantly haunting effect. Various other sounds were also brought into the mix, including electronic telephone tones and firework-like pops, as one young audience member noted.
Following Omnivore was Rhode Island’s Liz Isenberg. Her gentle voice was reminiscent of a female Sufjan Stevens, aided in part by the voice overlay techniques employed by her predecessor.
While both bands received enthusiastic applause after their sets, Dawson’s welcome echoed throughout all of Biko. She started things off with what she called “kids’ songs” from her most recent album, Alphabutt. The tattooed and pierced singer-songwriter began with the record’s title track, on which many audience members happily contributed vocal support.
“All I wanted to do was learn Metallica solos,” recalled Dawson of her first guitar lessons. “And my teacher said, ‘With your small hands and gentle disposition?’ But when I turned 21, I broke down and bought my first acoustic,” said Dawson. “Who was I kidding? Look at these stubbly nubbins.”
Before one song, Dawson explained that she wrote her lyrics about body image so that kids would feel comfortable with who they were, rather than what they are told to look like. Another song she claimed to have written when she was pregnant with her now two and a half-year old daughter Panda about her concern for “being a good mother.”
Despite Dawson’s lauded role in the scoring of Juno, the singer only played one song from the film. Instead, she stuck mainly to her newer tunes, in spite of urgings from the crowd to do otherwise.
“We’re regulars here and we’ve never seen it this crowded,” said Alex Bostelman, a third-year history major at UCSB of the concert. But despite the size of the crowd, Dawson’s performance felt wonderfully personal. “It was very intimate and fun,” said Hana Schmittdiel, a first-year music major at UCSB. “It was a very comfortable show.”
For three hours, Dawson’s audience happily sat on Biko’s concrete driveway, raptly listening to her silly, political, and personal songs. At the end of her performance, Dawson signed autographs, sold CDs, and took pictures with fans, but not before warming some hearts by way of a set closing sing-a-long to Annie‘s “Tomorrow.”
Helen Tracey is an Independent intern.