Review and photos by Mary Rehak.
I’ll admit, my original reason for checking out the Junip show was not just the presence of Jose Gonzalez, but my recent sonic love affair with tour-mate Sharon Van Etten. The Mohawk was already pretty full for her set (and would just about hit capacity later on). It wasn’t the indifferent mulling about of a crowd just waiting for the headliner, though; they knew the songs and were singing along. Her vocals were like a more uptempo Cat Power, waltzing with your heartstrings, making you hurt for every bad thing that ever happened to her. Between songs she would crack a joke about having indigestion from too much BBQ, and everyone would chuckle in disbelief that someone so endearingly awkward could write such starkly heartbreaking music.
Purely from a musical standpoint, the combination of the two acts seemed a little puzzling before the show. Junip is whisper-soft and light on vocals, where Sharon Van Etten is completely vocal-driven, and much more prone to rocking out. But seeing them back to back, their reason for touring together was obvious: they share an intensity, a depth of emotion to their music that keeps the audience almost breathless.
Junip was amazing, though an entirely different experience from Sharon Van Etten. During her set, people were moving around, a couple up front were swaying in each other’s arms, there were murmurs of conversation. For Junip, the crowd was hushed, spellbound, with the intense quiet of hundreds of people all focused on hearing every single gorgeous note. The band had everyone completely in the palms of their hands, and treated us with delicacy and care, like dreamers they wanted to soothe. They played for well over an hour. At their last notes, the crowd sighed in discontent, reluctantly waking from a perfect dream.
(Junip and Sharon Van Etten performed at Mohawk on Nov. 18, 2010)