Alela Diane: 14 August 2009 – Union Hall, Brooklyn

Alela Diane, a Portland, Oregon transplant from Nevada City, California, took the spotlight at a packed Union Hall recently after sets from Melbourne, Australia’s Luluc and Bushwick’s own Sharon Van Etten.

Diane admitted she missed her father, an influence and member of her band (on her MySpace page Diane lists one of her influences as: “My parents singing in the kitchen – I’d wake to hear their songs – I’d fall asleep to them.”) Her father was busy touring with his Grateful Dead tribute band, the DeadBeats (he’s the lead guitarist). So Diane had backup from Alina Hardin on guitar (above left), and Matt Bauer (above right) on banjo.

It’s great – and rare – to play with other musicians whose music “makes sense together,” Diane said mid-set. Indeed, Luluc, fitted on the bill late in the schedule, conducts minimalist, vocal-driven modern folk songs that complemented the heady lyrics and complex melodies of guitar-and-vocal outfit Sharon Van Etten (above). Luluc lead singer Zoe Randell has a voice like Nico – those elongated, full-bodied vowel sounds – and is backed by light-as-a-feather guitars from Steve Hassett.

Van Etten, pictured with Julie Fader (above left), has a stage presence reminiscent of early St. Vincent: just a semi-acoustic, a woman, and a unique viewpoint reinforced by a powerful set of cords. She isn’t afraid to turn up the volume, but in the live setting, even the rawest songs are rendered shiny and precise, with her voice leading the way. Van Etten was supported by Fader, who also plays with Chad VanGaalen and Great Lake Swimmers, on “For You,” from Van Etten’s acclaimed recent LP Because I Was In Love.

Diane chose a number of songs from To Be Still, her second LP, released in February, including “White As Diamonds” and a pared-down version of “My Brambles.” She also included a a traditional carried over from her childhood, a handful of new songs from an upcoming EP, and included “Oh! My Mama” from her debut, The Pirate’s Gospel, in the encore.

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