Angel Olsen at One-Eyed Jack's

15:30 November 12, 2014

“Excuse me, but Angel’s singing,” says the boy on my left. Z-snapping with a vengeance, he cuts into a talkative audience member like he’s protecting a close friend. Another boy on my right begins outlining his marriage proposal plans, falling deeper and deeper in love with the singer onstage after each song. The three of us form a trinity of adoration, talking with the familiarity that flows between members of the same music scene. We’re strangers, bound by the feeling of the earth moving beneath our feet as Angel Olsen performs at One-Eyed Jack’s.

I can picture Angel at a bar. She’s the girl on the next barstool, the one sighing into her Amber draft, who doesn’t hesitate to lend me her lighter, the one whose elbow nudges against mine as she laments her job—her lover—her landlord—her lost insurance card—her broken guitar strings—before making me laugh and giving me a down to earth smile. Secrets today, songs tomorrow.

It’s tomorrow (or, specifically, Nov.4),  and her performance fills me with the warm fuzzies that only familiarity can invoke. On stage, the platforms on her feet resemble Dansko server shoes, as if she had hurriedly closed at Pizza D just before using her tips to cab it to a gig that she was direly late to. The only thing that divides us is the stage; she is like me, struggling with the same emotional ires, fighting to contain her myriad feelings concerning both everyday minutia and universal angst.

Her songs put me in an emotional vise, forcing me to confront feelings that I have left sandwiched between the pages of my journal. They reinforce my belief that we are all connected, and provide me with a sense of emotional legitimacy. Her performance, laden with songs from her latest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, feature  lyrics like “I only had an answer/to put it all to bed/I wish sometimes I could take back/every word I said” (“White Fire”), and “You’re gone, you’re gone/You’re with me but you’re gone/A feeling once so strong/Is now an old and forgotten song” (“High and Wild”), These, delivered in a voice both powerful and vulnerable, injected a dose of raw emotion into an audience that seemed to need convincing to remain silent. 

Angel sounds best when she’s reverberating through a set of sharp speakers. Surprisingly enough, One Eyed Jack’s delivers, providing the best sound experience that I have ever had there, and allowing for the textured call and response of a vigorous game of Marco Polo. Angel’s voice is the call, and the audience provides the response, forcing her to contend with the sound of heavy chatter for approximately the first third of the performance. Despite being the headliner, she’s forced to earn the audience in a way that most male-fronted bands rarely have to. Whether because of gender or because she seems like a sweet, familiar face at the local bar, her Roy Orbison-like crooning eventually entrances everyone in the room, including herself. By the final few songs, Angel Olsen stands alone, her body and voice completely inhabited by a divine, doe-eyed spirit that silences even the most resilient gabbers in the crowd.

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