Few lineups are as perfect of Hand Habits and Tomberlin. The two acts specialize in incredibly personal and touching songs that are tailor made to sink into you head and nestle there for long periods of time. The pair took to the Hideout earlier this month for what was an incredible night of beautiful music.
This would be the second time I had the opportunity to see Sarah Beth Tomberlin perform live and a part of me wants to say I was more prepared than the first time, but I’d be lying. That first time, a few months ago at Schubas, I was brought to tears during Tomberlin’s opening song “Any Other Way”. It’s a song full of pain and a solemn understanding of that pain that just hit me so hard. The same occurred under the string lights of the Hideout as she calmly sang out “There’s gotta be a way / I’m tired of feeling like you only stay / Out of guilt and out of shame /But did we know any other way”.
Tomberlin’s voice and gentle guitar strumming seem like a recipe for any typical singer songwriter, but the way she handles her songs is downright masterful, setting her apart from the pack. Every song is treated with the utmost sincerety, letting her tender lyrics breathe and live within her audience. Even her stage banter, essentially playing with the very idea of stopping her set for issues or concerns, feels like something genuine. She played a few newer songs, imploring the crowd to take note since they might sound different down the line. Whatever their end result, I’m sure Tomberlin will make them as heart-wrenching as the rest of her amazing tracks.
Meg Duffy, evoking the aura of David Byrne in an oversized suit, had the crowd completely entrance moments into the Hand Habits set. Joined by John Andrews and Keven Lareau, Duffy set the tone for the evening right off the bat, starting things off with “All the While” from her album Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void). The song wonderfully floats along and gave Duffy the chance to hook the crowd that was already entranced by Hand Habit’s presence.
The following set carefully traversed Duffy’s latest album placeholder, a title rife with meaning and purpose beyond it’s initial meaning. from “wildfire” to “pacify” and beyond, Duffy’s album is full of intensely focused tracks that come together in such a beautiful way. Guided by Duffy’s immaculate voice, Hand Habit’s show was remarkable in it’s honed simplicity and mesmerizing talent.
Duffy’s stage presence and genuinely somber songs demand a quiet room and for the most part they got it. Save for one small incident in the middle of the set, where Duffy was speaking with the crowd, a few audience members seemed determined to talk through the moment. Duffy began to talk lower and lower, until the voice was barely audible through the mic and the small group of talkers’ voices seemed to ring out. Needless to say the calling out worked and the rest of the show was as reverent as could be, which really benefited Hand Habit’s sound.
Duffy and the rest of the band seemed determined to completely shred the night away towards the end of their set. “jessica” and “guardrail/pwerline” both showed off Duffy’s insanely great guitar playing, letting for some intense riffs and solos take the spotlight. Duffy in particular looked completely lost in the performance, letting her finger tips guide her where they may, as she tore into her guitar. This sort of deep concentration popped up up during a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me A Place” during the latter half of the set, handling the song with poise. It truly encapsulated just how powerful and alluring Duffy’s performance can be, ending the show a few songs later for a completely grateful crowd.