Review: Julien Baker @ The Red Room

Solo shows often have very little room for a mediocre experience. It’s bare, it’s out there, and you either feel it or you don’t. Julien Baker, although seemingly not yet fully aware of her power, plays in as one of the few musicians who can leave a crowd in a unified awe, demanding to be felt rather than passively experienced.
Shot for Kerrie Burke of Rarely Taken SeriouslyBeing at a more quiet venue like The Red Room where the experience isn’t interrupted with flushes and glass clinks, first of all, makes a worthy difference. The venue often introduces a variety of Berklee talent seeing that it is on the music school’s campus. Gracie and Rachel opened eyes to a swirl of dream-like builds, steered by the often staccato violin and non-stop twirling keyboard. Keyboardist/vocalist Gracie Coates stood as the Berklee grad and served the school proud, directly gazing into her alma mater’s crowd with confidence as her fingers glided up and down the keyboard. The two were also joined by a percussionist who rolled through beats with mallets on a floor tom, adding an intensity that would be felt doubly through Baker’s set.

Recorded versions of Baker’s songs already reap the most tender of thoughts, but watching her face drop after the climax of every confession, is a whole other being. Realizations of self-worth, addiction, and weight that comes with asking for help, Baker turned away from the mic shortly after every song, as if she just needed to hide for a quick second before she could gain the emotional strength to give up more. It was a shared experience both more painful and enriching than anyone in the room will be lucky enough to feel as rawly in the near future. After an audience member audibly murmured an “oh my god” during one of Baker’s second long hideaways, the crowd broke out in a little laugh of relief knowing that everyone else was on the same page.

As the atmosphere started to weigh down, Baker broke in with banter here and there to mostly express sincere gratitude, but to also to lend a little relief amidst her public therapy session. “I write sad songs, so I can be a happy goober of a person,” Baker smiled, looked down and twiddled a delicate riff into what turned into a reflective version of “Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life”, that then transitioned to “Brittle Boned”.

Everything must have felt like a gift considering Baker’s overwhelmed appreciation, but the full audience singalong to “Everybody Does” was the clear highlight. “My set is usually so abysmally quiet and I’m used to playing in a punk band, so thank you!” she explained immediately after finishing, physically blown back by the reaction.

Most of the night, the crowd left Baker to do her hushed magic, but the feeling of all encompassing communion of emotion weighed heavy on the night. As everyone filed out into the first snowy night of the season, you could not imagine another rising songwriter that could make wintry barrenness so full quite like Julien Baker.

If you would like to see more pictures from the show, check out our slideshow below.
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