Sharon Van Etten: The Indie Rock Queen We Need

KALX Weblog logo

On a typical sleepy Thursday, Sharon Van Etten performed a powerhouse opening set before Bon Iver took the stage at the Chase Center on 9/12.

Written by Makaila Heifner

The first time I heard “Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten I cried. The song acts as a reflection of one’s past and present that simultaneously romanticizes the age yet grounds yourself in the reality of a lack of confidence and experience. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would hit me live, but on Etten’s opening set for Bon Iver’s “i, i” tour on September 12 at the Chase Center, I was brought to tears once more, ripping into me with a new intensity and passion I wasn’t quite prepared for.

When I first saw that Etten was opening for Bon Iver, I was slightly confused. It seemed like an odd pairing to me. Upon research, however, I discovered Etten and Justin Vernon (the leading man of Bon Iver) are close friends and have even collaborated on Etten’s hit song, “Love More.” After their show this week, I could see why they’re the perfect duo for a tour. Their soft lyrics yet hard-hitting music evoke the most innate feeling of sensitivity and humility, and after the show I felt more sober than I have in weeks.

In particular, Etten’s “Jupiter 4” stuck with me.  The repetition of the chorus rebounded throughout the arena, creating a haunting reverberation that sent chills down my spine. This feeling lingered even after her set ended; she has a certain power that I can’t quite pin down but it is simultaneously daunting and admiring.

Comeback Kid" pulled me out of my trance and willed me to dance. Watching Etten interact with her bandmates reminded me of old friends playing music in their garage rather than performing to an arena of hungry fans. Each beat seemed to seep into the band members as they jolted with each crash of the drum.

The quick percussion of “No One’s Easy to Love” had a similar effect. Perhaps it’s my own bias towards synths, but I felt myself and the rest of the crowd bending and oozing together.

Etten’s command of the stage extended to her command of the crowd. Everyone around me watched in awe and either slowly rocked to the music. It felt as if we were in the climax of an indie coming-of-age film. “Holy sh*t,” the couple next to me exclaimed. “She’s really good.”

Etten reminds me of a contemporary Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde. She isn’t flashy or much into theatrics, but allows her music to do the talking. Her slight saunter does not demand attention, but it exudes confidence and makes you believe this is exactly what she was meant to do.

Etten’s live performance is something of beauty. She is the indie rock queen we should uphold for our daughters, as well as ourselves. She is surely not one to be missed.