lily and madeleine [2014]

The Chapel
San Francisco, CA
17 June 2014

I don’t remember my first show. First show without grown-ups, sure, but first live music event ever?

Which is a significant motivation for this review. Because on this night, I took my seven year-old daughter to her very first show – to see Lily & Madeleine at The Chapel.

She and I had both fallen hard for the sisters from Indiana a couple of years ago. Forced to listen to my music every morning on the way to school, she had quickly taken to the simple, beautiful harmonies of the real-life sisters, Lily & Madeleine, their pristine yet natural voices, their perfect chemistry.

My daughter learned to sing their songs; not just the words, but the emotions as well. It was quite a wonderful thing to experience. I ended up sending a video of her singing their songs to the sisters and they really enjoyed it.

So when I heard they were finally venturing out to the West Coast for the first time, I knew that we would have to be there. I let them know that we were coming to the show, and they said that they’d love to meet their young fan.

What I didn’t anticipate in all of the first show excitement was my daughter’s experience of learning just what it means to “go to a show”. She’d heard this phrase so many times before (“Oh, Daddy’s going to a show tonight?”), but now she was actually going to understand what that meant.

Her first lesson came pretty quickly, as we drove into the city and spent 20 minutes looking for a spot in the Mission. “Why is it taking so long?” “Why are there so many driveways and tiny little spots where we can’t fit?” The harsh realities hit her hard.

We got our hand stamps, found some stools in The Chapel and settled in for the opener’s set. “I don’t really like this”, she said, 3 minutes in. More harsh reality. “I know, I know” I said. “That’s how it usually is.”

Eventually, Lily & Madeleine came on, we moved up to the front and the true experience began. The sisters are folk musicians, of an era and style that has long passed. They are not part of the freak folk movement (if you want to call it that). They do not revel in the strange.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy some Joanna Newsom, and even a little Devendra, but this is not that. Lily and Madeleine sing and play in a much more straight-forward style: simple, wholesome and without affect.

It was a glorious first show for my daughter. At least it was for me. To experience the performance, not just through my own eyes, but my daughter’s as well, was amazing.

After the show, we went up to meet the sisters, but of course, at the last second, my daughter got super shy and only said hello from a distance, declining to take a photo. Despite the lack of photographic evidence, my memory of that night will never fade.