SxSW review: Anais Mitchell, March 17, Paradise

Austin, TX – I first heard of Anais Mitchell when she sang at a gig with Bon Iver, a vocal trio that can do a Capella live (which I absolutely love). This being the first show, of the first day of southby, I was understandably slow. Anais was already on the stage and as I walked upstairs Paradise her voice flowed down like a small stream through some  Amazonian forest floor complete with moss. Unlike those of other songstress/writer, she sings in a bright yet slightly thin voice. The guitar accompaniment mostly counteracts the singing, rather than the normal tempo-setting strums of folk songs. As I listened, I noticed that her melodies and lyrics don’t lend themselves well to harmonies – and so in short, they sound like lamentation, verses to be delivered solo. But boy what lament – I realized that you don’t usually sing (pardon the pun) praises for mournful lamentations. But these are quite the delight to listen to. Case in point: Eurydice, a dead person’s song about… living husband. I can’t decipher. It would have an immediately calming effect anywhere but Baltimore maybe, where you’d likely panic because said lyrics might come true. Hadestown, which is a collaborative effort between Anais and other artists, have quite a few numbers that would fit well in a cabaret, I thought. I thought each song is distinct with quick turns, but may repeat in different verses, making it fresh to listen to each round. Without the rest of the bands, though, songs from Hadestown take on another feel. Our lady of the underground, for example, originally sounded like Persephone was singing with her cohort in hell enticing you in; but with just Anais and guitar it was like Persephone went and lost her job (that of course wasn’t meant to be derisive at all). Halfway into the set she mentioned that she just wanted to hang out – I felt bad that there weren’t that many people – 15 or so early birds. But I do believe that this was a set that many would have enjoyed – just simply sitting there and flowing downstream.

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Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, South By Southwest

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