Photos by Krystina Gabrielle
I got into Baltimore band Wye Oak earlier this year, when they blew me away with their performance at Rock and Roll Hotel. My love for Wye Oak led me to see Jenn Wasner’s solo project, Flock of Dimes, on Friday night with opener Harkin.
The opening act set the scene for the night. Aaron Roche first performed solo, awash in blue lights while playing beautifully sparse, wonderfully meandering music. Then, layers were added piece by piece: Wasner snuck onstage to join him, contributing her voice to stunning effect. The result proved that you should always see the opening act — you never know what surprises you might encounter. Harkin then came on stage and performed, showcasing her strong guitar skills.
As Flock of Dimes, Wasner creates some of the most exciting music I’ve heard in a long time, and her debut album If You See Me, Say Yes is definitely on my year-end best records list. Released in September, the album shows off Wasner’s flexibility and depth as a musician, with songs that range from electronic, shimmering indie pop, to tracks that defy categorization.
I was personally interested to see how Wasner would bring these songs to life. She opened with “Birthplace,” a stunning song about the people who move through our lives. “And my love is not an object/That rusts with lack of use,” Wasner sang. “The Joke,” my favorite song on the album, followed. The intelligently-catchy melody served as the perfect backdrop for her strong voice, and instrumental portions during the middle and end elevated the song even further.
As innovative as Wasner is with her music, she also manages to keep her songs accessible and grounded through her songwriting. “…To Have No Answer” is a companion track to “Sometimes it is Right…,” and the song builds from a simple arrangement to a lush sound, with deep, profound lyrics. “Sometimes it is right/To have no answer/To sit with myself/And remember,” Wasner sang.
Wasner was a vision in a black and white patterned jumpsuit that matched the guitars onstage, her blonde bangs and high ponytail bobbing along as she moved to the music. The lights dimmed during “Apparition,” a fitting title for a haunting and mysterious track. As Wasner sang “Flight,” her voice was as ethereal as it sounds on the record.
The strong beat of “Minor Justice” acted as the background for Wasner’s lilting voice. At the end, she approached the audience to deliver spoken lyrics. The single “Semaphore” showcases Wasner’s talent for delivering a unique take on an upbeat song. “Ida Glow,” a bonafide electronic dance track, got the room moving before the band left the stage to raucous applause.
The encore consisted of a Joni Mitchell cover. Wasner shared that Mitchell’s music “makes me feel understood but also scares the shit outta me.” She hit the nail on the head for me, too: Flock of Dimes is so good that it scares me — but it’s the best kind of fear.