When I was first introduced to Marika Hackman, she was gently strumming an acoustic guitar in the middle of the Lincoln Hall stage, performing a beautiful opening set for Laura Marling. Her songs were tender and intricate, shaped by wonderfully dark lyrics that offered a depth that most folk singers rarely find themselves in. Hackman continued making these beautiful sort of songs in the following years, expanding her skill set into folk mastery. Then I’m Not Your Man came out and completely reinvented the visage of Hackman as a folk singer-songwriter into an impressive indie rocker. The new album has her playing rawer songs in a loose and inventive way with The Big Moon backing her through a large chunk of the songs, making for one of the more interesting shifts in direction and one that the crowd at Schubas was going absolutely nuts for.
The Big Moon started things off with a incredibly fun and raucous set. Immediately you could tell a large portion of the audience were here for this fantastic opener. Fans from across the world seemed to have crowded Schubas, including one diehard with the band’s logo tattooed on his arm. The group were certainly appreciative of the attentive audience, rocking out their debut album Love in the Fourth Dimension. Fern Ford held up the band with her monstrous drumming while guitarists Juliette Jackson and Soph Nathan and bassist Celia Archer took to the front of the stage, sharing the vocals throughout. Whether they were joking with the crowd of familiars or jumping out onto the floor with them to perform, The Big Moon felt like a polished set of veteran performers.
Although The Big Moon downplayed their cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as karaoke, it was a nice highlight of their set. The band seemed to be at their most relaxed then, as if the pressure was off and messing up wouldn’t have been an issue. Not that they ever did the entire night, the band worked seamlessly together as they drove through their set with intimate poise. Throughout the night The Big Moon would practically perform in each other’s arms. It was that sort of chemistry that the band emitted among themselves that made them so enjoyable to watch and made for a great set.
The intimacy and chemistry kept going once it was time for Marika Hackman to make her way to the stage. The songs that Hackman and The Big Moon recorded together on I’m Not Your Man were done live and it shows in person. The two musical entities work so well together in the moment, again due to how they feed off the energy of one another. Nathan would nestle on Hackman’s shoulder, Jackson and Archer would rest their heads on each other in a jam, or they would all hug together to finish off a song. There is something to be said of a band that truly feels like old friends just having fun together, making utterly enjoyable music for a crowd of devotees. “Good Intentions” fueled the beginning of the hour-long set that would never falter.
Amidst the cheers of fans, Hackman and the Big Moon took no time to dive deep into the incredibly streamlined set of songs off I’m Not Your Man. Considering just how different her sound now is, it wasn’t surprising that her focus was on this new, downright amazing road of songs. “My Lover Cindy” plays with an infectious melody that is impossible not to dance to while Hackman’s cadence gives her lyrics all the power thy deserve. “But I’m a lousy lover/even if I try” is sung with such emotion that cuts through the bouncing instrumentation. The cheering singsong of “1,2,3,4, tell her you love her more…” that underlines “Time’s Been Reckless” gives the song a nice vitality that that keeps it moving along effortlessly.
There were a few older tracks tossed in, namely the literary referencing “Ophelia” and the meditative “Cinnamon,” adopting the new sound that Hackman has been evolving. The loose and fun quality of her performance changed the stakes on these songs that were once serious odes into fun anthems (sort of, the lyrics are still the dark metaphors they always have been). The change that these songs went through had me wondering if tracks like “Cannibal” (a personal favorite) could transition into such driving melodies, but alas it didn’t make it into the setlist.
The flow of the evening was particularly impressive, finding its way to the end of the night with “Boyfriend” and “Blahblahblah,” two songs that saw The Big Moon and Hackman ascend further into rock goddess status. This was a shining moment of the night as the songs burst out from them, eventually putting Marika Hackman and Soph Nathan on the floor as they shred every bit of emotion from their guitars. The switch to a sharper indie rocker was now complete and Marika Hackman’s performance proved that she has the ability to pull it off.
All photos by Julian Ramirez.