I’m can’t forget how Adrianne Lenker graced the Lobero stage

Kat Smith, Staff Writer

“Graced” seems inadequate to describe Adrianne Lenker’s presence at the Lobero Theater on Dec. 8, 2021. Lenker was silhouetted onstage with a single chair. There were no fancy backdrops or accompanying musicians, only her incredible, raw talent, her soulful-yet-light voice and whimsical guitar picking. 

Lenker was secluded from her traditional supporting musicians who make up the Grammy-nominated indie rock band Big Thief. This intimate setting invited the audience into Lenker’s whims and fancies. Early on, Lenker even requested that the house lights be turned on so she could see the faces of her audience.

Lenker responded to each request and remark from enchanted audience members with sincerity and witty banter. At one point, she riffed in reply, “time is an illusion, time is a protrusion, time is confusion, hello there Susan.” As the audience cheered, she retorted, “I certainly hope someone wrote that down.”

Lenker’s unique background serves as a backdrop for her radically honest lyrics. Lenker and her two younger siblings were born into a religious cult where her parents were members, although they left when Lenker was five years old. From there, the family lived a nomadic existence, bouncing between vans and homes in rural Minnesota.

Lenker’s father taught her to play guitar and recognized Lenker’s musical talent. As a teenager, he “bred” his daughter to be a pop star, desperately wanting her to be famous. However, Lenker quickly realized that she didn’t want a life of celebrity, which led her towards creating more folk and indie sounds. 

After earning her G.E.D. and essentially running away from home, Lenker won a full-ride scholarship to Berklee school of music in Boston, where she developed more technical guitar, writing and vocal skills. Now, Lenker is the face of Big Thief, though she tours and writes more frequently on her own. 

Vulnerability is the name of the game for Lenker. Her storytelling is transparent, sometimes startlingly so. Her hit “Masterpiece” tells how she worried her mother when a railroad spike fell on her head. “Paul” retells Lenker’s early relationship with bandmate Buck Meek, when love and turbulence were synonymous. 

The Lobero’s small size and dreamlike interior provided the ideal setting for Lenker’s concert. Leaving the theater that night felt like leaving something behind, and though two months have passed since the concert, I still remember the brief, beautiful connection we audience members shared with Lenker.

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