Just a week after the release of the highly anticipated single “Vampire Empire,” Indie Folk band Big Thief returned to the birthplace of lead singer Adrianne Lenker for a dazzling performance. Known for songs like the bittersweet “Paul,” and intense, gritty “Not,” Big Thief has proven time and time again that they cannot be confined to the restraints of one genre. Each member of the band comes from a different background, and therefore different influences, which can be more easily dissected in their solo work (click here to check out the singles from guitarist Buck Meek’s upcoming album, Haunted Mountain, out August 25).
The group played in Old National Centre’s Egyptian Room. The event space has a capacity for up to 2,000 reception guests or 900 seated guests; with this event in particular offering general admission tickets or balcony seats.
The intimate venue was the perfect place for Lenker to open with “Indiana” as her bandmates stood on stage alongside her, centering their focus. With delicate fingerpicking and a hypnotizing voice, the crowd fell into a hush for the entirety of the number. Much later in the set, Lenker took a short pause from playing to express her gratitude to the audience for such a special show.
“I was born here,” she said. “I feel like I can still remember the air.” She then went on to detail that she didn’t spend much of her upbringing in Indiana – she moved from there to Minnesota when the was four – it’s a heartwarming feeling to return to a place where her past self once resided and made memories.
Following Lenker’s solo was an astounding performance of “Mythological Beauty,” the group’s first performance of that song since 2020. When that piece concluded, Lenker introduced the continuation of “Mythological Beauty,” entitled “Real House,” which made it’s full band debut in that very moment.
From heartfelt acoustic performances to otherworldly and elaborate rock influences, the group’s chemistry was almost as tangible as the humidity that has hung about central Indiana throughout the summer months.
Within several of the group’s more headbang-worthy tunes, Lenker and drummer James Krivchenia played their instruments at each other, fully surrendering their movements to the direction of the song. Similarly, Meek could not subdue the groove that impacted him from head to toe – and took a significant detour through his shoulders. Bassist Max Olearchik showcased his versatility by switching between the electric and upright bass, and also could not keep still as his talents combined with those around him, creating sound waves of pure magic.
“Spud Infinity” began as an ambient jam, with Lenker moving around the stage interacting with her bandmates and playing several different – and slightly unconventional – percussion instruments. A second Lenker, Adrianne’s brother Noah, joined the group to show off his skills on the jaw harp that make the song so instantly recognizable. Krivchenia’s microphone was set to mimic the sound of a fiddle, though produced more of an extraterrestrial effect in conjunction with the organized musical chaos that ensued.
Throughout the set, no single member of the group talked a whole lot. However, the power of the performance lies between the words that were spoken to the audience. There was so much emotion present on the faces and in the voices of those who make up Big Thief – it is almost impossible not to view them as defining musicians of the 21st century. To create art that is so rooted in humanness, accepting its faults with its glories, is not only rare, but difficult to execute effectively.
While there may be subjectivity in this statement, Big Thief’s creative guitar solos, nuanced basslines, and penetrating drums – along with lyrics capable of walking a line between solemn and satirical – complete a formula that cannot fail to create an invigorating and life-changing live performance that everybody should see at least once in their life.