Sharon Van Etten Is Taking Chances And It's Paying Off

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The first time I saw Sharon Van Etten in concert, it was by accident. It was during the CMJ music festival in 2009, and I'd gone to the Bowery Ballroom in downtown Manhattan to see a solo show by Kyp Malone of TV On the Radio. I'm usually pretty singleminded when it comes to concerts — while I love checking out new music, I like to arrive at a show right when the headliner is going on because I generally get impatient watching opening bands. Maybe too many years of going to hours-long Phish and Disco Biscuits shows in college depleted my stamina.

I showed up to the venue earlier than expected and was planning to kill time in the downstairs bar, but then the woman on stage began performing. She sang through a catalogue of wrenching songs about love and yearning and loss, in her angelic but melancholy voice, and I stopped checking my watch. I didn't know who she was, was too entranced to investigate, and I didn't learn her name until years later when, still haunted by the performance, I googled every combination of "CMJ + 2009 + Kyp Malone + Bowery Ballroom + opener" until I found her.

Sharon Van Etten performed as part of the Northside Festival on Wednesday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and she was a more polished than she'd been when I saw her five years ago. No longer just a woman and her guitar, she had a full band that included Darren Jessee of Ben Folds Five and Megafaun's Brad Cook, and she wore vertiginous heels and a demure black top that covered her tattooed arms. Her voice, though, was just as impressive and instrumental, and the songs from her newest album, Are We There, are certainly worth listening to. Watch the video below and meet your new girl crush.

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