Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lavender Diamond and Shelby Earl at the Sunset Tavern

I've been a fan of Shelby Earl since seeing her at West Seattle Summer Fest in 2010, and she sounded great at an early afternoon set at Bumbershoot that I caught for a little bit, so I was looking forward to seeing he in a nice small scale setting at the Sunset Tavern.

Shelby opened for Lavender Diamond, an unknown band for me. Jaime posted about Lavender Diamond on Facebook and was looking forward to seeing her, and Jaime's recommendations have always been solid.

I got there early, took a seat with a good location in the bar and had a beer. The location gave me a good intimate view of the stage. Shelby Earl at the Sunset, December 2012 Shelby and her band came out, fairly classic lineup with Shelby singing leads and playing acoustic guitar, a hollow body electric, a stand-up bass, and a drum kit. They had a back-up vocalist who occasionally sang some leads, and the hollow body electric guitarist and bass player also added tasty backing vocals on occasion. Shelby has some great songs, "Under Evergreen" is already a favorite after a few listens:

She does some down-tempo romantic, sad songs that make my heart ache at the same time as they put a smile on my face, songs like "Everyone Belongs to Someone:"

Lavender Diamond was new to me, she performed with a small group that played a pretty stripped down music and added an occasional tasty backing vocal. Lavender Diamond at the Sunset December 2012 Once the music starts her vocals are the focus. Another example of a fairly slow tempo, unusually slow for modern music, but wonderfully apt for this beautiful, soaring song. As she hits some of the higher notes with those clear clean vowels, just nailing the note no matter where it is - I get goose bumps. I love that - her performance is disarming, communicating directly to my emotions, making it hard to remember to keep the camera framing her properly as I lose myself in aching beauty.

Her patter brings the mood back to Earth, she's a bit of a nut, but so am I and she's mostly my kind of nut. The stuff about holograms is classic, she's on to a solid metaphor: each bit of the hologram encodes part of the whole, so if you remove a bit of the hologram, no single object or detail drops out, instead the overall detail diminishes a bit. The patter is fun if a little scattered, and the songs are wonderful.

She has an amazing voice with a great range and precise control of pitch, tone, and volume. Her microphone control is also impressive as she smoothly moves back away and turns a little while cranking intensity up, wailing away without overwhelming the mic or the sound system, then moves back in for a quieter breathier section, carefully keeping her voice balanced in the mix without overly "playing to the mic" - check the bit around 4:20, for example. Lavender Diamond petty much relies on the frontwoman's voice and personality: she's the show, the other musician's are her backing group. Lavender Diamond at the Sunset December 2012 From where I sat and stood, that works well. Lavender Diamond takes a powerful voice used beautifully and expressively and showcases it in quiet yet emotional songs that sneak up on you and get inside your heart. She takes you on an emotional spiritual journey for 4 minutes or so, then brings you back to what passes for Earth in the Northwest with patter about holograms and rain from hotel windows and creative blockakge, followed by another 4+ minute song soaring off into the ether...
Somehow her songs mend my heart on a level that I hadn't even noticed was hurting.

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