laura gibson [2009]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
5 May 2009

It seems like it’s a thing these days to be old-timey – to dress old-timey, sing old-timey, play old-timey instruments. This is not a bad thing, in my mind, but a thing nonetheless. From Jolie Holland, to Thao Nguyen, to The Decemberists. It’s as if only a very specific segment of the indie music community received a memo.

Laura Gibson has a beautiful voice. It is deep and often full of sorrow. It makes me think of what Joanna Newsom’s voice might become, when it’s advanced beyond puberty. All of the odd and attractive lilt without the screech (and I do actually enjoy a lot of Newsom’s music). Gibson’s voice captured Bottom of the Hill on this night. A BOTH opener does not generally receive silent attention from the crowd.

And that’s one of the beauties of Gibson. She recognized and appreciated the warmth that her music created in the room. Her banter was reserved, but thoughtful, and at times, emotionally devastating (See WWII Poland tale). It was an ongoing engaging dialogue, as banter should be.

Gibson and her two band mates produced music with instruments that bordered on gimmicky, including an accordion, at least two melodicas and one saw. And yet, happily, it all worked. The songs came together in such a way that the instrumentation made sense – it made you believe that it was all necessary in order to create that particular blend of sound.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when an opening artist you don’t know comes out and immediately commands your attention and respect. Laura Gibson makes music from a different era, best listened to in parlors and living rooms. Chairs and hot beverages should be involved, if possible.

(In no way relevant, I must still make mention of the fact that I’d been looking forward to seeing Tim behind the kitchen counter this night at Bottom of the Hill – not just for his warm smile, but to take him up on his offer of an off-the-menu grilled cheese sandwich. Alas, I rushed up to the counter only to discover that Tim was not there [or, at the very least, had undergone a major transformation in both size and color]. Next time, Tim. Next time.)