Big Thief // Live Review & Photoset

24th May | SWX

Photos: Jess Greenwood

I’m not sure if going to see Big Thief ended up as more of a revival or a revolt at SWX. There was an unexpected atmosphere at the sold-out show. It was great to see a diversity of ages all but climbing on top of each other to get nearer to watch Big Thief at the front. When they played, the feeling of old Americana indie-country sound frequently transported us into rural America.

Big Thief also played the hardcore stomper of a single, ‘Shark Smile’, which seemed to be everyone’s favorite and well-known song amongst the assembled kin. Their sound was impeccable, their distinctive heavier rock sound gets you dancing along to them, even at a gig where everyone is scrambling on top of each other.

There were dreamier songs such as ‘Paul.’ In some ways this was a very subtle song to listen to, about the complacency of that rural American culture, perhaps hard to fully understand when you’ve grown up in another country, but ‘Paul’ transported us into the main singer, Adrianne Lenker’s head. From there on it was her presence on stage that captivated us. They then played ‘Shoulders’, which was haunting, from the taunting lyrics of what feels like someone describing an outcast in society, “And the blood of the man who killed our mother with his hands” in between a hoarse “it’s in me, it’s in me… in my veins.”

Each member of the four-piece was a sight to see on stage, with their own enthralling musicianship. Guitarist Buck Meek also played a part with his solo music on ‘Pareidolia’ – where, I don’t like to over-romanticize, he really turned the gig into a western American folk scene – like something out of a roadhouse bar. 

The presence of their new album, U.F.O.F was met with the big single ‘Cattails’. It was so lush live and the start of it fell from everyone’s lips until the end, where you could hear everyone mutter “Caroline…” That was only a small part of what made this a prize-winning gig. But it was Lenker screaming like that wild cat in the wilderness between lyrics in ‘Contact’ that really bellowed out Big Thief’s real identity. 

Listen to ‘Cattails’ here: