Preceded by a glorious, long-awaited, sixty-degree spring day, Big Thief took to the stage at the State Theater and kicked off their U.S. tour and our entrance into spring all at once. The performance infused the band’s critically-lauded album from this year, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, with an equally eclectic reverence.
The opener was K-LC, a composer from Montreal who showcased her ethereal, static sound. With ferns draped over her synth setup, she tamed the crowd with undulating melodies rich with harpsichord and Japanese Gagaku motifs.
Big Thief began their set with “Certainty,” which was punctuated by the hearty acoustic guitar sounds we know and love them for. The mix of cheap-sounding elements — think nylon strings and starter drum kits with an educated, playful set of lyrics — suddenly felt as though it was written for Ithaca’s spring-awaiting audience.
Adrienne Lenker’s voice diffuses air with a breezy twang that makes lyrics like “Living in the debt of make-believe/Saying I owe you/Crooked as a crow gnawing on dawn” sail over the instrumentation.
In press releases, the band’s publicist refers to the group as a “chosen family.” When Lenker’s brother, Noah, joined the band onstage to play the jaw harp on one of the band’s coolest songs, “Spud Infinity,” the family circus promise rang true with the Ozarkian snap of the instrument.
“Spud Infinity” stood out like no other song in the set. The album itself is sprawling, unwinding as a silly appreciation for the strangeness of the passage of time, which might pass through your consciousness like a knish overbaking in the oven.
At times, the Appalachian sounds and domestic lyrics are campy, such as musings about how it’s really hard to kiss your own elbow. Other moments in this song about a potato are moving as they’re wailed live while you consider the joy of being in an audience upon hearing hear the words “One peculiar organism/Aren’t we all together?” The older gentleman next to me, who had scalped his ticket outside, passed me his popcorn so he could dance.
The casual synergy of the band was a perfect match for oddball Ithaca. Occasionally, Lenker forgot the words to a verse and called out to the audience for help. Other times, guitarists Buck Meek and Max Oleartchik jammed out so hard that the walls shook, notably on “Black Diamonds.” It was a delightful mix of peaceful tunes and head bangers.
Of course, this was not lost on the Ithaca crowd, the entirety of which looked like they knew their way around a Dr. Bronner’s bottle. The blankets of verse paired well with the varying ages and effulgent demeanor of the audience. The crowd was an amalgamation of Ithaca’s indie kids, IPA-loving parents and funky professors, all of whom bopped their heads at the undulating rhythms. The resplendence of this performance was not just that a beloved indie band had rolled through town, but that their set was not overly rehearsed. We, as Ithacans, were in on the magic.
Big Thief will continue their U.S. tour with sold out shows in Boston and Brooklyn before briefly heading to Canada.
Greta Gooding is a senior in the College of Art and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].