Mr Little Jeans’ eyes are shut, her brow is slightly furrowed, she is crouched low and her flowing shawl is billowing around her. She is in the midst of a haunting buildup of her song “Mercy,” and the crowd has been brought to a pause from their enthusiastic dancing. With bated breath, the audience watches Monica Birkenes sing with anticipation and awe as her voice travels against a background of heavy synth and electronic pulsing drums. She is inward and lost within the bridge of the song, commanding a presence in the intimacy of the moment she is experiencing. And as the beating of the drums strengthens, the synth grows louder, the crowd prepares itself to jump into the chorus – then Mr Little Jeans opens her eyes, and the room is once again thrown into a frenzy of joyous dance and motion.
Returning to SB for a second time since her September SOhO show, Monica Birkenes’ round two in the 805 was yet another undeniably delightful performance, one that was a brilliant flux of entrancing, intimate moments and a full blown dance party. The intimacy of her performance seemed heightened by the fact that her mother was in attendance, flying all the way from Norway to see her daughter perform as Mr Little Jeans for the first time. The night proved to be an affirmation of Mr Little Jeans’ established love of the 805, and vice versa. Halfway through the set the crowd formed a tunnel for her mom to go through to join her daughter onstage.
Noteworthy moments like this were not uncommon this past Thursday night at Velvet Jones. Delivering a start-to-finish polished performance that kept the crowd moving, Mr Little Jeans opened with her energy-infused “Rescue Song,” making it clear why it has been remixed by the likes of RAC and The Naked and Famous. Where some electropop tends to coalesce into an interchangeably uniform monotony, Mr Little Jeans’ set on Thursday night was anything but. Each song was a unique narrative, given texture and feeling by Birkenes’ breathy yet powerful voice.
A few songs in, she paused to recount her previous show in S.B., mentioning an injury and subsequent surgery that had jeopardized her chances of playing. In a brief moment of unabashed vulnerability, Birkenes expressed her gratitude at being able to stand before the crowd and perform. “Happy to be back in a walk-able, danceable state!” She proclaimed before diving straight into “Runaway.”
Running from corner to corner of the stage, leaning down to share the microphone with front row fans, holding their chests with eyes directed upward to sing the lyrics of her songs, Birkenes’ ardent willingness to connect with her audience and give all of herself to her performance was striking. Her passionate investment in the crowd didn’t end with her final song, “Good Mistake,” which had everyone turning to their neighbors and communally jumping together.
Shortly after, she stepped behind the curtains and the gathering of bashful yet determined fans congregated at the front of the stage, Birkenes reappeared again to individually speak with, take photos, and spend time with the members of the crowd, listening to their stories.
Standing on the outskirts of the group, I spoke with one of her fans who I’d noticed earlier on, elbows on the stage, front row, singing every word to every song throughout the evening. He told me he’d driven down solo from Nipomo just for the night to see the show, and that he would be driving back that night.
“She’s amazing,” he told me. “The only artist that I feel like I could actually go up and talk to.”
That’s just the type of performer and person that Mr Little Jeans is. The kind that you drive hours to go see, chat with after the show, and go home feeling like you’ve both met a rockstar and made a friend.