Julien Baker receives abundance of audience gratitude


Jeremy Hu

Julien Baker performs at The Accord in downtown Champaign on Saturday, February 18, 2017.

By Kayla Martinez, Staff writer

The Accord welcomed singer Julien Baker on Saturday night as part of Pygmalion’s show series.

Hues of red and blue filled the venue as Thunder Dreamer, an indie rock four-man band from Evansville, Indiana, came on. The audience put their hands up as drummer Corey Greenfield took a moment to take a picture of the crowd.

An eerie sound crept in from guitar distortion. The ground vibrated and Steven Hamilton began the band’s set, with delicate guitar riffs from its first full-length album, “Lonesome Morning,” that was released in 2014.

Hamilton’s voice hit falsettos and bass guitarist Alexander Wallwork moved vicariously through his guitar, turning and moving his head with its sound. Meanwhile, keyboardist Zachary Zint leveled each song with organ undertones.

Thunder Dreamer left the stage with a soft tone that would later be picked up by Julien Baker’s gentle folk melodies.

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    From Memphis, Tennessee, Baker began her musical career with a band called Forrister, and later released a solo EP on Bandcamp in 2014, “Sprained Ankle,” which went on to become a studio album in 2015.

    Baker dashed on stage and the audience cheered as she plugged her guitar into the amplifier.

    “Hi guys, my name’s Julien Baker,” she began. The rest of her sentence was inaudible because the audience’s enthusiastic response.

    Baker’s first guitar notes subdued the audience. The only sound other than her music was the clinking of glasses from the bar.

    “Do you think that there’s a way I could ever get too far? That you’d ask me where I’d been? Like I ask you where you are?”

    Baker closed her eyes as she sang “Blacktop.” She knelt down and played her guitar at eye level with the audience, and came back up as she moved on to the next song. Quietly, the audience sang along as she began “Sprained Ankle.” Baker’s humble sound goes beyond folk melodies. Heavy topics like, Baker sang about substance abuse and depression.

    “Thank you,” an audience member screamed.

    “Yeah, it was my pleasure,”Baker responded.

    Baker continued to pour each song out to the audience, and in exchange, it sang along and threw out an abundance of thank yous. She took a moment to say that it was encouraging when people sing along and that it makes her happy.

    Her voice and guitar filled up the empty stage, with blue lights that dimmed down to highlight the sound’s mood.

    The bartenders quietly served drinks, whispering.

    The audience laughed as she described her next song, “Funeral Pyre,” as the title sounding “like a metal song, but it’s not.”

    Throughout the entire set, songs were separated as the audience burst the bubble of lingering silence with encouraging screams.

    Baker thanked the audience for welcoming her during her first visit to Champaign, and they thanked her back.

    “This song is about being grateful,” she said as she began to tune in to play “Rejoice.” The audience sang along.

    “Thank you, thank you, no seriously thank you,” came out from the crowd.

    “No, thank you, seriously,” Baker said.

    She stepped out after her set was over, and quickly gave in for an encore, saying that she didn’t want to seem “pretentious.”

    Baker ended with “Go Home,” and the audience sank in the melancholy of her vocals.

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