Usually, it is difficult for an opening act to draw a large, captivated crowd, but when the four-piece began at 9:15 p.m., the mid-sized space was already almost to capacity, and everybody’s eyes were glued to Hamilton as she crooned atop soaring guitars and galloping percussion. Calm and coy, the young musician planted herself behind her microphone, occasionally stepping back during musical breaks to strum her guitar. Her demure presence juxtaposed guitarist Robert Thomas’ intense, passionate energy. As Hamilton daintily strummed her guitar and wistfully sang into the microphone, Thomas thrashed his strings and paced the stage, at one point leaning up against his front woman, inducing a shrewd smile on her face.
During its set, Widowspeak played “Gun Shy,” and “Harsh Realm,” two singles off its 2011 self-titled LP. As Hamilton sang, it was hard not to compare her to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Her cadence and timbre paralleled the shoegazing star of the ‘90s in so many ways and radiated a gentle warmness that subdued the audience. In a trance, bodies swayed and eyes transfixed on the stage.
With so many people entranced by her presence, it’s hard to believe that Hamilton previously suffered from severe stage fright and was inexperienced with the electric guitar. It was drummer Michael Stasiak who urged Hamilton to start Widowspeak after the two moved across country from Washington to New York. Facing her fears, the songstress obliged, purchasing a used Danelectro guitar and jotting down song lyrics. Soon after, Stasiak recruited Thomas on lead guitar, and the trio had its first practice.
And now, maybe two years later, the three-piece expanded to four with the addition of bassist Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugh, signed with Brooklyn’s primo indie label Captured Tracks, and are currently touring the country in a van.
The tour, which began mid-June and ends July 5th in Baltimore, will bring Widowspeak all over North America, with stops including New York, Toronto, Chicago, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Seattle, and, of course, Los Angeles. During the nearly month-long tour, the band will be supporting the likes of 2:54, Lower Dens, The Men and Wild Nothing.
If the four-piece continues to entrance crowds as much as it did Tuesday night, I wouldn’t be surprised if its next national stint is a headlining tour. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with the band.
Photo by Gretchen Robinette