Walking up to the Bootleg Theater on Wednesday night, the streets were quiet. Acoustic guitar was the main feature of the night, with emphasis placed on what felt like each individual string for both acts; James Elkington needed little else aside from the instrument and his voice, though The Weather Station performed as a four piece band for the majority of their set. Nevertheless, the honesty in Tamara Lindeman’s songwriting shone when she took the stage.
When I entered the venue, a dozen people were scattered around listening to the finger-picking of Elkington, a British songwriter. He played his guitar like a banjo, plucking wildly with one hand as the other adeptly danced along the fretboard. He was charming, formally introducing himself and his songs, but also engaging with us on our local allegiances. “Isn’t there a dodgeball game or something happening right now? Or do you not care and that’s why you’re here?” The Dodgers of course lost the final game of the World Series to the Astros, so devoted baseball fans behind me mumbled that they didn’t want to talk about it. But then again, a woman to my right declared, “I don’t care,” and Elkington heard that loud and clear, adding, “To be fair I didn’t care when the Cubs won, but I’m also not from here.” The references in his songs point to his origins across the pond, but his accent was subtle and could have been easily confused for a haughty New Englander; this is likely because he has been living stateside for twenty or so years (by his own estimation). And he still doesn’t care about baseball.
Neither does Lindeman as it turns out. Between songs she recounted an anecdote about visiting a potential suitor in her youth whose entire family was diehard for the Toronto Maple Leafs. When she asked which sport that was, she was apparently met with outraged stares of disbelief. “We didn’t end up going out after that,” she concluded with a laugh. So Dodgers fans, know that life will continue even without taking home the pennant.
Lindeman’s performance at the Bootleg was the first of a North American tour for her eponymous new album, and it also marked the first time she’s played as The Weather Station in our city. “We flew straight from Europe, which seemed like such a big deal. And we thought, it would be so funny if no one showed up.” She looked up from tuning her guitar and added in earnest, “Thank you for coming.”
When she took the stage with three other band members, she began with her latest album’s opening number, “Free.” She played a few more ‘loud’ tracks, then dismissed the band so she could perform some acoustic tracks solo. When she went to pick her electric guitar back up, she explained that she hadn’t felt like writing quiet songs recently. The world needed something bolder, and that came to her in the form of her self-titled record that came out last month. In it, she discusses trials of love and loss, but her perspective is wise. Frustration over inexplicable emotions shades one of the album’s strongest tracks, “Power,” and on “You and I (On the Other Side of the World),” she discusses intimacy as a paradox, “like a song with so much silence.” But the lead single and final song of her set at the Bootleg, “Thirty,” is a celebration in spite of all this. We should take a page from Lindeman’s book: in the face of turmoil and dysfunction, we will fall down laughing, effervescent.
The Weather Station continues to tour across the country; see tour dates on her website. Be sure to follow the band on Facebook and Instagram. And follow James Elkington on Instagram while you’re at it.
by: Zoë Elaine