It’s nice to stumble across an actual small venue that isn’t in a house. It calls to mind days long past, days that admittedly I was too young to be a part of. But the Hi-Hat feels like the kind of place that you just walk up to on any given night, ask will call what the band sounds like, and buy a ticket regardless of the answer. It’s a nice impromptu night out, something that we really just don’t do anymore. There’s so much planning and time spent thinking about what our next show will be and how long it’ll take to drive there and how much parking will cost and… wait, shit, did I forget to bring cash for this lot again?! This place is none of that, it’s a bar, it’s got a stage, and there isn’t much else, but for tonight that’s perfect because not having somewhere else to be doesn’t mean that the place you’re at isn’t great.
Laura Carbone is a special type of artist. One who can’t or at least refuses to be classified or corralled by something as silly as a genre. Her intimate performance wrapped the room in a captivated stillness that shifted and warped at her command. At times her guitar’s volume was fully capable of cracking the room wide open, a power that when juxtaposed with softness proved wickedly effective.
Beginning with the sounds of the ocean, the room immediately transforms to a pristine beach, cool blue light bathed the stage in crashing waves as if lulling us all into a soft daze. Kicking off with “Empty Sea” enhanced that calming aura, allowing the audience to be molded like clay by her voice, built up and broken down at will.
Seeing her live it’s immensely apparent that this is her element, her voice, in particular, is more potent and resonant than on the record, even in a smaller venue like the Hi Hat. As soon as the drums kicked in her stage presence became more forceful and dynamic, showcasing a clear command of showmanship that she surgically deployed for maximum effect.
That dynamic stage energy continued with “Who’s Gonna Save You,” a relentless Americana-inspired rock track with a reasonably sized twist of strange that keeps it exciting. The kick drum practically rattled the whole building, pulsing through the chests of all those present while her voice continued to wow. “Lullaby” gave her a chance to break into something groovier and more anthemic which had a noticeable head bobbing effect on all those present. Carbone herself was clearly having a great time between the howls and the righteously heavy down-tuned guitars. “Lullaby” was a much calmer turn, its soft tones moved the crowd back into a cool unsuspecting state once more, though that only made them all the more susceptible to her vocal fireworks display. She finally showed off poppier songwriting chops with “Tangerine Tree” which seems poised to blow up as soon as it hits the right playlist and her performance showcased it as such. She lent a fragile yearning to each note, making the whole piece far more than just another ballad, and actually captured the imagination of the crowd with her excellent performance. Of course, this was eventually followed up with the rambunctious tracks “Nightride” and “Cellophane Skin” but we could have bounced back and forth between tracks forever though, no one was tired on this night, Carbone least of all.
If this show and Carbone’s songwriting are any indication, we shouldn’t count on catching her in venues like this for much longer. Anyone with ears can practically hear the rocket ship trajectory her career seems poised to take. So catch her here while you can, get up close and hear it loud. There might not be too much time till you’re trying to catch a glimpse with binoculars from the cheap seats.
Who’s Gonna Save You