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Junip at Venue

Junip at the Venue, Nov 11 2010. Ashley Tanasiychuk photo

Junip at the Venue, Nov 11 2010. Ashley Tanasiychuk photo.

Review and photos – Junip at Venue, Vancouver Nov 11 2010

– review and photos by Ashley Tanasiychuk

There were no yells of “Shut up and play already!” so maybe her personality suited most people. Or maybe, as she pointed out, as Canadians, we’re just really, really polite.

Whatever the reason, Sharon Van Etten‘s unique stage presence, somehow awkward and confident at the same time, succeeded in holding the audience’s attention. Even though the majority of the crowd had probably paid for their tickets to see José González‘s band, Junip, play Venue, van Etten easily held her own and proved she deserved her time on stage.

Junip at the Venue, Nov 11 2010. Ashley Tanasiychuk photo

Junip at the Venue, Nov 11 2010. Ashley Tanasiychuk photo

Her songs are well written and delivered with intensity and passion. And with an accompanying bassist and drummer, their sound filled the room.

But it was Van Etten’s between-songs banter that could have turned the crowd ugly. While tuning her guitar or just catching her breath, she commented on her age (29), her astral sign (Pisces), and her home (North Dakota). But this information wasn’t empty drivel, in the way that musicians feel the need to say the cursory “we love Vancouver” or “we’re so happy to be here.” Instead, Van Etten’s conversational style is dead pan, full of dry wit and occasionally self-deprecating (as when she introduced a new song by saying, “I hope you don’t hate this one”).

This unique charm, combined with her obvious depth of talent, definitely won Sharon Van Etten some new fans last night.

Not to be outdone, José González injected some of his own charm into the evening early. While Van Etten was performing at the harmonium, her mic was slowly slipping down the mic stand. With both hands on the harmonium, Van Etten was crouching, little my little, to keep up with the declining mic. Then González saved the day, appearing from the front of stage to fix it for her, to which she smiled her charming smile. At the end of the song, she commented jokingly about her “roadie José González.”

After a short break and quick tuning session, the members of Junip (José González, Tobias Winterkorn, and Elias Araya, along with two additional musicians who tour with the band) took their places on stage.

Junip, which just released Fields, its only LP, could be criticized for building their reputation on González’s established career. The immensely talented González has received critical acclaim for his solo LP’s, as well as having songs featured on television, a video game, and (in my opinion) one of the greatest and most beautiful TV ads ever, in which thousands of colourful rubber balls are unleashed onto San Francisco’s hilly cityscape. With this man fronting the band, it would be an utter shock for Junip to suck.

And although González’s unique, gentle voice was as central to the evening as his soft bearded face, the members of Junip were out to prove they aren’t simply a “González-and-friends” affair. They set a quick pace straight out of the gates, launching into “Rope and Summit” and “Sweet and Bitter” two driving, powerful tracks. Junip is not afraid of slowing it down, though, and did so from time to time. This was especially moving during the beautiful “Without You”.

The action really ramped up during “At The Doors”; the stage coming alive with intense focus, hands beating on drums, strings, and keys – Junip was engaged in a full-on jam session. And it was mesmerizing.

Disappointingly, though, this energy only lasted for one more song before their official set was over. It would’ve been nice to see that energy carried for another two or three tracks before they took their pre-encore break. To their credit, though, they returned almost immediately.

And the crowd soaked it up (the crowds in Vancouver have been getting bigger and more appreciative lately, even on weekday shows – this is great to see!), and politely roared after every single Junip song. The band deserved every cheer and every clap, but after Sharon van Etten’s charming and interactive performance, it felt as though Junip’s focus on the songs rather than the audience made their show a little less impressive than it could have been.

More Junip and Sharon Van Etten at Venue photos:

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