In the middle of the summer, Vagabon (the musical project Lætitia Tamko) of took the opening spot of the third day of Pitchfork and absolutely nailed it. She produced one of the more ethereal and beautiful sets of that weekend, put all the pressure on the quality of her musicianship rather than an over the top performance. Vagabon expanded on that quality over quantity performance, putting all her passion and energy into an explosive set at Subterranean.
Opening up for Vagabon were two exceptional local musicians, Morimoto and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. Both delve in and out of genres, making for some very interesting songs that defy containment. Morimoto for example can rap with a pretty excellent flow before pulling up his sax and jamming out an incredible instrumental in the middle of his songs. His band is full of horns that create powerful jazzy interludes that Morimoto croons over, another jump of genres to something more R&B flavored. Best of all is that Morimoto is having fun on stage and it shows through his performance, never feeling dull or played out.
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya takes those same sentiments from Morimoto has in his set and ramps them up. Ogbonnaya embodies the cartoon version of himself that appears on his latest release DROOL, moving around with energetic bravado. There something so unique about his songs that transform in a live setting. A large part of that is due to how more organic the compositions feel, “Should Have Known” and “Think That Way” have a new life breathed into them. “Me 4 Me” in particular gets elevated to beatific heights with it’s repetitious mantra “I just wanna be loved” having so much more weight behind them.
His banter between songs only amplifies the fun as Ogbonnaya jokes about meme competitions as a pair of women throw flowers on stage. “We found them in a dumpster!” one of them yells. “That’s my aesthetic: dumpster roses” retorts Ogbonnaya. It’s a weird idea of an aesthetic, but one that kind of fit in with the wonderful set. Ogbonnaya ended his with a bombastic “Let Go My Ego”, jumping off stage and dancing around to let out all that amazing energy.
When Vagabon came on stage, the mood become slightly more reverent than before. Lætitia Tamko has a certain aura about her as she performs that quiets the room and demand attention. Her songs are meant for more intimate venues. It lets them bloom with the ferocity they deserve, especially on songs like “Minneapolis” where the latter half bursts as Tamko’s guitar shred notes with unbelievable intensity, Maggie Toth made everyone’s chest tremble with along with her bass, and Elise Okusami got the rest of the crowd’s bodies quaking along with the drum’s rapid excitement.
Above all else, Tamko’s voice is the highlight of the set. The few times she does interact with the crowd, she is soft spoken and barely audible; but when singing she arches back and away from the mic. Her voice carries with an impressive surge that is somehow capable of tender utterances and primal screams that make her a joy to listen to.
The understated sadness of “Cold Apartment” relies on Tamko powerful singing, lending just the right amount of distress to the love-lost song. “The Embers” on the other hand ebbs and flows between being put down and out right damning someone for their predatory ways. It’s one of the strongest songs in Vagabon’s repertoire, looking at the phrase “small fish” in every way, simply through Tamko’s range as a performer. For her encore, Lætitia Tamko came back done that spiral stair case and performed one final song. By that time was so enthralled by the performance I couldn’t grasp the song’s title, I had let myself go into the depths of her voice and experience this moment it all it’s glory.
Vagabon’s time on stage barely reached the 30 minute mark and left the crowd in honest shock, both of a positive and negative nature. While that half hour was perfect for a festival set, it was too short for an indoor venue. At first it felt like maybe the quality of her performance made it seem like it sped by (something so good that you lost yourself to it like I did), but it was that very focus on quality that made the set so short. Vagabon performed to her utmost best, leaving no room for filler tracks or over wrought banter between songs. It’s odd that such a complimentary facet of a show can also be it’s detriment, but at least we got thirty phenomenal minutes of Lætitia Tamko and her band.
All photos by Julian Ramirez