You may have noticed that Salt Lake magazine doesn’t cover a lot of shows at Urban Lounge. Trust us, it’s not because we don’t like the bookings at Urban (we do!). The reason is actually pretty lame. I, your humble music reviewer, have a hard time staying up late enough to make it through a show at the notoriously late-starting venue, let alone enjoy it while I’m there.
But, sometimes I know a show is going to be so good that it’s worth the red, bleary eyes the next morning. Lydia Loveless was such a show.
But before Ms. Loveless could even start, two openers came before her. The first, Angelica Garcia, a young woman who seemed to be influenced in equal parts by Ani DiFranco and Lili Taylor’s song-writing character in the Cameron Crowe classic Say Anything.
Hitting the stage second was Slim Cessna’s Auto Club—a cow-punk rockabilly band that seemingly has a cult following, judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm. At one point, a number of folks in the crowd were kneeling as lead singer Cessna weaved through them like a tent revival preacher as he literally spoke in tongues meanwhile a guy in a trucker cap grunted words I didn’t understand into his mike. Look, I’m all about worship in all ways, but this was weird.
So, back to the headliner. We were into 11 o’clock hour before Ms. Loveless even took the stage to her presumably hand-picked intro music “The Humpty Dance.” She wore a white teeshirt with the words “Don’t Bother Me” sprawled across it and was sporting a new haircut—a short, possibly DIY job, with crooked bangs that combined with her small stature made her seem like less of a sexpot on stage and more like a child. That is, if children could kill it on guitar the way Loveless does.
The first song of her set, “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud,” the story a codependent relationship verging on murder-suicide—but in a good way—set the tone for the evening. Its Loveless and her tough-as-shit attitude, strumming a beautiful guitar with the backing of her band and a voice that is both balls-to-the-wall and vulnerable as the chorus repeats, “I just want to be the one you love,” over and over.
“Don’t you think she sounds like Neko Case?” a girl in the bathroom asked me a few songs in. “Well,” I told the stranger in our bonding moment, “She does, but she hates hearing that.” There’s no real way to categorize Loveless’ voice. It’s pure and angry and raw and somehow still a little wholesome. It’s Neko Case, there’s no denying it, but with edge that Case doesn’t have. It’s Neko Case if Neko Case went to juvie. Or something.
Loveless told the crowd early in the show that she wasn’t feeling well, “I’m not going to talk a lot,” she said, “Because when I talk a lot, I poop my pants.” Charming, but appreciated. And so she sang, mostly standing in one place, often with her eyes closed, and ending the set with some acoustic songs before giving the 50 or so people who managed to stay out past bedtime a treat, and giving those of us (ahem) who had to wake up early the next morning something to smile about.