by Catalina Berretta
It’s a freezing Saturday night and the Somerville Theatre is packed. The smell of popcorn fills the air as people rustle the plastic bags. We settle comfortably in our seats, excitement peppering the room in chatter and the occasional laughter. When the lights go dark and the stage is bathed in red lights, the crowd immediately cheers. Opening with “Comfort,” there is an immediate sense of presence from the lone shadow on stage. Alone with her guitar, Julia Jacklin is shamelessly baring her soul to the audience with no trace of hesitation. Jacklin sings nonchalantly, matter-of-fact, recounting in painful detail her own personal experience with heartbreak to a packed audience. Her voice and that simple melody fills the room, finding its way into every nook and cranny, making your heart clench in its chest.
Julia Jacklin performs at Somerville Theatre. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.
And yet, despite the tears that we blink away after the opener, she has us laughing in our seats, remarking how she feels like she’s about to do Netflix comedy special. The crowd seems to lean forward when she speaks, the energy between her and them something solid and good. “Cold Calling” continues to breaks up the somber mood, its chords making it impossible not to tap your feet or bob your head along. The sounds coming from the instruments are so good that it’s hard to imagine them as anything but a group of friends jamming just because they love the music. The chemistry is like a tangible thing, moving their bodies to and fro as they play.
And then Jacklin sings “Turn Me Down.” The room goes quiet and the lights fall. She is wailing into the mic and we are held captive as the sound grows and grows, the guitar distorting, following her melody. Even listening back to a recording of her set, I get chills during this song. There is something about Jacklin’s eyes when she sings. She is looking at something beyond us as we sing, eyes glassy blue. Her voice swells, and before our eyes she is cracked open, all the heartbreak on display. The silence after her voice echoes through the room is so powerful that we can only sit there, thinking, “Wow. Ok. Oh my god.”
The band takes a break after this as Jacklin banters playfully with the crowd, lending to an intimate atmosphere. She’s charming and witty, fielding silly questions like “What did you eat for breakfast?” with a juvenile smile and funny quips. When the band comes back for “Good Guy,” the energy gets darker, the slow tempo of the bass only sharpening the brutal honesty of the lyrics. “Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You” follows, the sound rougher than its recording and in that sense, more unnerving. She finishes it off with “Pool Party,” it’s joyful sound deceptively masking its tender lyrics: “My heart is heavy when you’re high, so, for me, why won’t you try?” It’s a beautiful sound.