Big Thief Steals Hearts, Noise, & Light

Big Thief Steals Hearts, Noise, & Light

April 28, 2018 Off By Billy Thieme

Photos by Billy Thieme, DenverThread

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There’s no doubt that Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief’s powerful vocalist and poet, is a force in indie music now. The band has been riding a wave of (well-deserved) praise and rising popularity for well over two years now and skyrocketing up to the top of the scene quickly. Their show at the Bluebird last Tuesday was a fitting example of how they’ve grown a little – on many levels – over that time.

The four-piece crept quietly onstage after a simmering audience awaited their arrival for nearly an hour, after a satisfying set by Fort Collins duo Whippoorwill, and the lights remained soft, revealing almost no features of Lenker’s face as she belted out tune after beautiful tune. The rest of the band –  guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia – also disappeared in a relative darkness that was only exacerbated by almost too much fog machine. But their performance, for the most part, was strong – if a little removed.

Lenker showed off some brilliant guitar work (almost begging Meek to justify his place onstage), wielding a ’57 Harmony guitar she’d bought just that afternoon across the street from the venue for the first couple of songs. “I have about $5 left in my bank account,” said Lenker, giggling in an almost bashful way. She truly made that Harmony sing, twisting and jerking herself in red and blue spotlights while she made it sound like a small symphony, noisily thrashing the sold-out venue.

Hinting that either exhaustion from touring or a basic discomfort with their rising fame, the band seemed somewhat distant, or maybe shy, compared to their last visit to Denver in October, 2017. While the audience offered reverent silence – even between songs – Lenker and company responded with a strong set, but their personalities seemed overshadowed by the stage, and the size of the crowd. At one point during the beautiful “Mary” Lenker seemed distracted, and lost her way amid the lyrics, so strong and poetic as to approach the flavor of the late, lamented Leonard Cohen. But she stumbled through, only endearing the crowd even more to her and her cohorts, smiling in a sheepish way as she regained the piece.

Big Thief deserves a sell-out crowd at venues like the Bluebird, and it looks like they’ll continue achieving them if their trajectory holds. The challenge, it seems, is going to be keeping the band from splitting at its seams, or driving Lenker to hide within her brilliant and emotional worlds, protecting herself from a world of fans that seems to love her, and wants to swallow her and her bandmates up. It’s a good problem to have.


  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.