featuring Halfsour and Palberta
November 27, 2018 at the Sinclair
This was probably the most empty show I’ve ever been to at the Sinclair– something that ended up being a massive bonus to my night, actually, since I didn’t have to keep craning my neck, and I had personal space for once. It turned out that this was the perfect setting to see Speedy Ortiz: a mostly relaxed venue full of long-term fans in the city that they first gained popularity.
I’ll admit I completely missed Halfsour apart from the last song of their set– which was good, even though I still probably heard a minute and a half of that, max, so I won’t pass any more judgment than that. Palberta, though, I definitely did catch. At first, I wasn’t fully feeling it. As much as I love bands of entirely women, there was a lot of chords they strummed that instantly just felt wrong to me– like less of an intentional dissonance, and more like they messed up. Particularly impressive, however, was that each of them played every single instrument. The band, which is made up of Lily Konigsberg, Nina Ryser, and Anina Ivry-Block, all sing as well as switching between guitar, bass, and drums as the songs go by. This definitely made me give them a pass on their rocky start, since there’s clearly a ton of talent here that maybe just needs to be a little more fine-tuned for live performance. Plus, Palberta’s music is really difficult to perform, full-stop– there are songs that start with acapella harmonies, and each song is really layered especially for only having three band members, with the added complication of bizarre syncopated rhythms. Despite the bad first impression, I was impressed by the musical skill here. I’ll be interested to see where Palberta is in a couple of years.
Sadie Dupuis, Speedy Ortiz’s frontwoman, was dressed in a sparkly red dress, lending a little bit of ‘holiday cheer’ to the night. They opened with ‘Buck Me Off,’ ‘Lean In When I Suffer,’ and ‘Lucky 88’– all of the singles off of their newest album, Twerp Verse. I thought it was kind of fun that they played a lot of songs in the order that they appear on the album, including also ‘Raising the Skate’ and ‘The Graduates’ from 2015’s Foil Deer. Dupuis’s voice is so unique, and she’s excellent live. She was so emotive while singing, as if she was mimicking the expressions that her lyrics might have invoked. There’s also a massive comfort level that the whole band seemed to have with each other, and they seemed to have a lot of fun playing– standing up back to back with each other and playing their guitars held straight up, and just general bouncing around were pretty common.
After playing straight through these five songs, Dupuis mentions that the Sinclair is one of her favorite venues in the world– which makes sense, as they’re essentially a Boston band. It feels a little bit like they intentionally got their most popular songs out of the way to make room for some more deep cuts, so to speak, which seemed to be appreciated. The main set is almost an hour, an impressive amount of time to play straight through. They seemed to be interested in creating a positive environment for everyone– they had a tip jar set up at the merch table to help migrants at the U.S. border, and they constantly thanked their openers and the staff at the Sinclair. Despite having nothing to do with the music, this was kind of a highlight for me: a reminder of the good in people. Other song highlights for me during the main set included ‘Tiger Tank’ and ‘Plough.’
They didn’t leave the stage at all before the encore, and play three songs, ‘No Below,’ ‘Casper (1995),’ and the extremely old ‘Taylor Swift’ as their last song, one of their singles back in 2012 before Major Arcana– the album that put them on the map– was even released. They finished playing the song with all their guitars held up together; their drummer going nuts in the background. I left in a better mood than I’d come in, happy to have seen a band so dedicated to the happiness of not only their fans, but of everyone around them.