by Robert Kerstens
Folk singer Azniv Korkejian performs under the name Bedouine, a play on the Bedouin nomads who roam North Africa and the Middle East. As a nomad herself, it’s a fitting title; she was born in Aleppo to an Armenian family, grew up in Saudi Arabia, moved to America at the age of 10, and shuffled between Massachusetts, Texas, and Kentucky before settling down in Los Angeles. She’s not finished traveling, either, taking her wandering country-folk on the road in support of her self-titled debut. Her performance at Allston’s Great Scott was an intimate and soothing affair, like a warm cup of chamomile before bed.
Aisha Burns was first to take the stage, performing a series of slow-burning folk songs. She had a gorgeous voice reminiscent of Angel Olsen, wavering like wisps of smoke in the breeze. Her earthy vocals were backed only by simple guitar strumming, with just enough reverb to give the tracks a dreamy aura. Highlights included ‘Sold’ and ‘Mine to Bear,’ two songs off her beautiful debut Life in the Midwater. She played with poise and confidence, with the flawlessly refined sound of a headlining act.
The second opener, Domino Kirke, followed her predecessor with a similarly tranquil folk set. The show was very well curated, with all three acts playing complimentary variations on the theme of quiet folk with rich female vocals. However, Domino Kirke’s set was the least polished of the three, afflicted by out-of-tune singing and frequent guitar flubs. Despite the mistakes, her set was still quite pleasant, with some pretty vocal harmonies between Domino and her supporting guitarist, Jen. Most of the tracks were gentle lullabies off her latest album Beyond Waves, including ‘Friend of the Family’ and ‘Pilot.’ She closed the set with ‘O’Kane,’ a delicately uplifting track that appropriated a melodic motif from The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be.’
Bedouine picked up right where her openers left off with a calming folk set of her own. With the exception of a few unreleased tracks, most of the tracks were off her self-titled album. She played fairly close to the record, although with a sparser sound stripped of her debut’s orchestral arrangements. What her music lost in intricacy was made up for in intimacy, with the resulting clarity bringing the focus to her warm vocals and gently finger-picked acoustic guitar. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little bored by the naked production. Not to discredit Korkejian’s charming songwriting, but without the rich depth of sound provided by the strings, brass, and woodwinds, the tracks felt a little two-dimensional.
Throughout her set, Bedouine nurtured a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging the audience to come in close as though they were gathered around a campfire. She was incredibly friendly, engaging the audience in free-wheeling banter between songs. The level of intimacy was par for the course for Great Scott, a tiny venue where headliners mingle indistinguishably with their fans and unassuming bar patrons.
I was particularly thankful for Great Scott’s barstools at this concert. For all the show’s pastoral beauty, the hushed folk had the tranquilizing effect of a melatonin suppository. The lack of deviation and in many cases simplification of the music on the record made for an underwhelming show that really hit the snooze button for me. If I was going to be lulled to sleep anyways, I would have rather heard the music in its full symphonic glory while lying in the comfort of my own bed.