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Homecoming Artist Profile: Big Thief

Homecoming is quickly approaching! With a great lineup like this, tickets are sure to sell fast. But if you aren't familiar with the acts taking the stage at Smale Riverfront Park, don't worry: Sam Banasek has you covered. Here's his Artist Profile!

Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief will not work the crowd. She will not ask people to dance, or introduce many songs, or say much at all besides “thank you.” Instead, she will simply perform and, in so doing, completely devastate any within earshot with some of the most heartfelt, personal songs you are ever likely to hear in a festival setting.

As a musical act, Big Thief is still in it’s infancy. The band gained national attention and acclaim with their debut album, 2016’s Masterpiece, and quickly released its follow up, Capacity, the next year. Though the gap between the two albums was small, the quality did not suffer for it. If anything, Capacity pushed Big Thief to new heights artistically by zeroing in on Lenker’s gift for deeply personal story-songwriting and by sliding the band’s sound more to the folk end of the folk-rock spectrum. Now, only two albums into their career, Big Thief is as accomplished and acclaimed as any artist could hope to be.

Big Thief’s live shows are reflective affairs, certainly bent more toward people who would rather hear music performed live than be overwhelmed by it. That's not to say that Big Thief doesn’t know how to put on a rockin’ show. Both Lenker and Buck Meek are talented guitarists that can pull out a nasty solo. However, their biggest strengths are more subtle: Lenker, her technical finger picking; Meek, his experimental indie rock guitar soundscaping.

Of course, the primary attraction of a Big Thief show is Lenker’s voice, something which few musical acts can match. Raspy and delicate, Lenker manages to project both vulnerability and power through her singing. Hers is a voice that has felt pain beyond its years and conveys every ounce of it. Some artists require stories and speeches for the meaning of their songs to land live, but Lenker communicates all she needs to with her voice and lyrics. In that, she possesses a rare gift and is absolutely not to be missed. In this writer’s opinion, Lenker’s singing alone is worth the price of admission.

Big Thief will arrive at Homecoming as one of the most buzzed-about new acts on the indie rock scene. The fact they aren’t closer to the top of the bill this year is not an indictment of their appeal, but rather a testament to the strength of Homecoming’s lineup. However, talented though their peers may be, I doubt that any of them relish the prospect of following Big Thief when they take the stage on Sunday.

Start with: Shark Smile, Masterpiece, Paul

Additional listening: Mythological Beauty, Real Love, Animals



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