Long Island native Laura Stevenson was a keyboardist for ska punk act Bomb the Music Industry! before going solo in 2006. Ever since, she’s been spinning out indie-folk jams and showing off her impressive vocal range on numerous splits and full-length albums. Last week, we shared a stream of her latest EP, Runner, and that night we went to her EP release show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where her recorded material truly came to life.
Despite an insane NYC blizzard, the venue was pretty packed for the third annual Don Giovanni Showcase, which also featured Hilly Eye, Lemuria, Waxahatchee, Jeffrey Lewis. The trek was well worth it—Laura was a total sweetheart and thanked us all profusely for making it out to the show. While playing electric and acoustic guitar herself, Laura had a full band including a drummer, accordion player/keyboardist, bassist, and second guitarist. Stevenson started her set with the latest single, “Runner” and continued with “The Healthy One,” a sad little accordion-filled tune. A hit from 2011 release Sit Resist that had fans singing along, “It hurts to be the healthy one!”
Next the band performed the slower fan favorite “Mouthbreather.” One thing I love about Stevenson’s style is the jarring effect between a quiet, steady beginning that leads into the rest of the band suddenly crashing in with heavy guitar and drums, melding it into a beautifully orchestrated event. “Mouthbreather” is just one example of this. “Caretaker” was a consistently quiet ditty that relies heavily on Laura’s chord-plucking and masterful storytelling. “California,” off the upcoming LP Wheel, is an upbeat, head-bobbing track that leapt and jumped through an epic progression of energy.
One of my absolute favorites from the new album is “Telluride,” which Laura announced is about the moon landing. The harmonious conclusion to Wheel has Laura soothing us with “Telluride, I told you a thousand times” toward the beginning but by the end of the song, she’s crooning these same lyrics, holding out the notes with a goosebump-inducing intensity. She then played “Barnacles,” a song about “being crazy and in love” according to Stevenson. Probably the most popular part of the night, much of the crowd was audibly singing bright-eyed lines like “Scrape these barnacles, I am utterly yours,” as Laura strummed her acoustic guitar.
“Renee” was another high point of the evening, a gorgeous ballad that Stevenson revealed was written about her stepmother. My heartstrings were tugged for sure, especially at Laura’s vaguely scratchy warble of “The hardest part is getting older.” Laura wailed her way through “Master of Art,” another solid folk track off Sit Resist that features Laura sounding somewhat reminiscent of young Emmylou Harris.
Laura Stevenson did not disappoint her fans that Friday night, giving stellar performances of a range of different albums. Keep your eyes peeled for Wheel when it’s released April 23rd on Don Giovanni Records, but for now, you can still stream Runner on BUST right here! And check out Laura’s spring tour dates by hopping over here.
Photos via Shervin Lainez and the author herself.