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Sharon Van Etten’s comedic banter surprises at The Indy

Sharon-Van-Etten_postPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Mark E. Ortega //

Sharon Van Etten with Jana Hunter //
The Independent – San Francisco
June 30th, 2014 (Monday) //

Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten sure smiled and laughed a lot on Monday night for someone who features heartache prominently at the forefront of her songwriting.

This could have been due to a combination of things. It was her second straight sold out night at The Independent, she’s riding the wave of critical acclaim of her fourth studio release Are We There, and she has managed to prove wrong those who doubted her early on.

Despite her songs being so often daunting and bleak in nature, Van Etten was able to break up the heaviness with the levity of her between song banter. One crowd member shouted to Van Etten that she should do standup comedy, to which Van Etten responded, “So you’re saying my music career is over,” to even more laughter.

Though the SF crowd sometimes got a little carried away with their commentary throughout the show, Van Etten was always able to reel them back in.

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Songs from her new release are much fuller in comparison to earlier Van Etten offerings and the benefit was instantly felt when performed with her talented band. “Afraid of Nothing” kicks off her new album and it did a brilliant job of setting the tone for the night as the set starter.

Backup vocalist and Jill of all trades Heather Woods Broderick brings out the best of Van Etten as a backup vocalist when the two harmonize. This was apparent on every song, the lone Van Etten solo song being “I Know” in her encore.

Van Etten has said in interviews she hopes she doesn’t get too much bigger, and she seemed right at home in the cozy confines of The Indy.

At one point in the set, Van Etten asked an audience member to share a news story tidbit, and the audience member asked if Sharon had heard about the exchange student in Germany who got stuck in a vagina sculpture. After relaying the story, Van Etten said, “Speaking of vaginas, this next song is called ‘Break Me’”.

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Van Etten continued moving through her set, throwing in a couple of old numbers; “Save Yourself”, “Don’t Do It”, and “Serpents” were among them. “Don’t Do It” featured Woods Broderick set up some ghostly vocals in the background as Van Etten kicked things off with her guitar. Though a deeply dark and depressing song in its lyrical content, the crowd couldn’t help but bob their heads to Van Etten’s pleas to a friend to not self-inflict some damage.

“You enjoy sucking on dreams / so I will fall asleep with someone other than you / I had a thought you would take me / seriously and listen but..” Van Etten sang in “Serpents”. An ode to an ex-lover that didn’t believe Van Etten had the talent to make it, Van Etten proved she won that battle on Monday night having sold out a good-sized venue a second consecutive night.

Before closing her set with her new single “Every Time The Sun Comes Up”, Van Etten preceded the song with a story about how it was written while stoned with her band and asked the crowd if anyone had any weed to throw it up on stage and she’d swap them with a setlist. That was truly rock n’ roll and a good one to end the night.

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