A Psychedelic Prom With Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

Do you remember your prom? You sat there thinking ‘Man, I would give anything to plug my iPod into the speakers right now and show this school a thing or two.’ In that moment you would be hailed as the savior and be carried on the shoulders of your adoring fans. Your playlist would have been the stuff of legends. At the House of Blues on Monday night, Angel Olsen and her band gave fans a glimpse of what a prom run by the indie heads might’ve looked like.

Heron Oblivion opened the night with a psychedelic folk freakout performance that recalled a summer of love long since forgotten. Singer and drummer Meg Baird kept the proceedings moving along with her mystic voice and rhythmic drumming. Guitarists Noel Von Harmonson and Charlie Saufley took turns wailing and gnashing on their guitars and generally having a bad acid trip on stage. It was really cool! Why go to Haight Ashbury when it can be brought to you.

The psychedelic atmosphere of the night was only getting started at that point. Angel Olsen’s band marched onto the stage in matching tuxedos complete with adorning bolo ties. Olsen herself, though, would not be joining her bandmates in their barnstorming-doo-wop-group attire. She took center stage in a space-age gold lamé jumpsuit. A 30 foot velvet curtain draped behind the band only accentuated the feeling that David Lynch had a film crew in the balcony; already filming the next season of Twin Peaks.

Angel Olsen’s voice is haunting, soulful, and liable to make you cry. Her voice turned the wide-open floor of the House of Blues into the dancefloor at a high school in Anywhere, USA. The spotlight seemed to reflect right off her spacesuit and light up the shuffling and swaying crowd. Even the rocking “Shut Up Kiss Me” transformed into a version that brought Olsen’s voice to the forefront and mellowed some of the harder aspects of the song.

Throughout the night, Olsen’s set practically blended together. This isn’t to say that her music is unmemorable or indistinct. In fact, she is so adept at her particular brand of songwriting that she created an environment where the audience could reflect on their relationship with her music, their place in the crowd, and one another. The set was one whole cohesive unit, meant to be experienced in total and at once. During the show, Olsen commented on the heart-on-the-sleeve nature of the evening. “We have so much to share in this live diary of mine,” she said with a smirk. The songs may be her creation, but everyone was experiencing them their own way that night and hell, isn’t that the point?

As the evening began to wind down Olsen and the band sauntered off stage, only for Olsen to return moments later by herself. She launched into a solo version of “Lonely Universe” that proved once and for all that her voice is the engine that makes the car go. Her voice is the alpha and the omega. You could hear a pin drop during this song; the audience was scared to utter a single word lest it shatter the spell she was casting.

For the final encore the full band re-emerged and Olsen took the stage againthis time wearing her trademark tinsel wig. Like the end of any good prom, when the rum in the punch is really starting to kick in, it was time to send the kids out on a high note. The band ran through an up-tempo version of “The Waiting” and finished off the evening with a Velvet Underground cover. The end felt like it had been a long time coming and also like the show had just begun. Time stretched and bent around her voice. By the end of the night, Angel Olsen erased the sins of proms prior and released the crowd out into the night knowing they had been right all those years ago; that playlist would have been incredible.