Big Thief at the Grey Eagle in Asheville

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Big Thief are easily one of the best new bands to come out in the past few years, releasing their excellent debut Masterpiece in 2016 and following it up with the equally excellent Capacity in 2017. Not only that but frontwoman Adrianne Lenker released a new solo album just last week. They’ve stayed busy on the road too. I caught them opening for The National in Asheville in May on a weekend I could have gone to the Shaky Knees fest in Atlanta but tickets were expensive and Big Thief wasn’t on the lineup. I was genuinely disappointed when their opening set was done even though The National are one of my favorite bands. I didn’t have to wait too long to see them get to play longer as they returned to Asheville last night at the Grey Eagle.

The first act of the night was local opener Matt Townsend. I was completely unfamiliar with him but impressed. I think he is the best local artist I’ve seen since moving to the area earlier this year. Adrianne from Big Thief mentioned playing shows with him in years past so I assume he’s been around a while and I’m not exactly breaking news with this telling you he was good.

Up next was The Range of Light Wilderness. I don’t want to be negative but I just couldn’t get into them. Just not my thing I suppose.

Big Thief was next. Before they played their roadie took a beer can that was on the stage (not left by us) and methodically crushed it a dropped it right at our feet in front of the stage. It’s was weird and a little dickish. Subsequently, the sound was absolute shit for the first two songs of the set, maybe he should have focused more of the sound part of his job. So after the first song that that had far far too loud bass the second song was Shark Smile. The crowd song along which was good because neither of the two mics in front of Adrianne worked. The guitars also went in and out at random. Disappointing that it took away from one of their best and possibly best know song but it was cool to see everyone get into it and sing along early in the set.

Things sounded fine from that point on and we got a good mix of highlights from the two albums and more. “Real Love,” “Masterpiece,” “Parallels,” “Mary,” and “Mythological Beauty” all made an appearance. Adrianne has a likeably awkward stage presence, at one point making a bad pun and then getting legibility cracked up at the groan-worthy joke someone yelled out. It’s nice to see that side of someone we only know from the intense lyrics of her work. She and the band let us experience that work up close and then left the stage dispensing with the fake encore expected at most shows. The crowd waited around for a bit but we’ll have to wait for next time to see what else they have in store.

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