Living in a politically polarized era, an artist, whether that be a musician, a painter, or a playwright, is faced with two options: cope with society by avoiding the issues or cope by addressing them directly. I’m not saying one way of handling a difficult topic is better than the other, but last night the Swedish sisters of First Aid Kit made the statement everybody in the audience wanted to hear. It came about mid-set, amongst a batch of songs, both old and new. While the band jammed on “The Lion’s Roar,” from an earlier record, lead singer/guitarist Klara Söderberg switched to her cream Stratocaster and broke into “You Are the Problem Here,” a song about sexual harassment and blame. The sisters belted and screamed lines like “I am so sick and tired of this world / all these women with their dreams shattered / from some man’s sweaty, desperate touch / god damn it, I’ve had enough.” After the song, Klara gave a passionate speech encouraging women to speak out and make their voices heard. It’s emotional moments like these that add depth to a live show and create a stronger bond between the performer and the audience.
The night opened up with LA-based Van William, who recently released his debut LP Countries. His trio commanded the stage, comprised of Kera from Kera and the Lesbians grooving around on bass and Brian Andrew Marquez keeping it steady on drums. There seems to be this singer/songwriter archetype often depicted that simply plays quiet, slow songs, standing solitary. But Van William brought the fun back into the folk/rock style, hopping and dancing around the stage to jams like “Never Had Enough of You” and Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Recently, at the Moroccan Lounge in LA, William had a January residency featuring incredible musicians and bands like Dawes, Jim James, Jonathon Rice, and more. After his set last night, as new fans circled his merch booth, William and I chatted about his songs and one of his guitars, a custom hollow-body from Old Style in LA.
As a longtime fan of First Aid Kit, my heart skipped a few beats when the venue turned all the lights out and the band began entering the stage. It had been several years since I had seen Klara and Johanna live; 4 years since their record Stay Gold was the soundtrack to a trip I took to London. That was the only album I could listen to that summer, its harmonies and rhythms captivating.
The set was mostly tunes off their new record Ruins, which everyone in the audience seemed to know all the words to already. There were the quieter moments, with the country-twang of “Postcard,” as well as louder moments, with their cover of Heart’s “Crazy on You,” another sister band. They danced around the stage, interacting with their backing band and grooving to the music. Overall, there was so much energy throughout the night, both in Van William’s and First Aid Kit’s set. You couldn’t help but want to dance along with them
The night ended with a four-song encore, starting with the acoustic folk sounds of “Hem of Her Dress.” The sisters then brought William back on stage to do a song of his called “Revolution” that they lend vocals to on his record. You could tell there was a whole lot of love on stage, the three of them commenting on how happy they were to be on tour with each other. “Master Pretender” and “My Silver Lining,” probably the most well-known First Aid Kit songs, ended the night with everyone singing along and swaying. I was transported right back to that summer, where all I could do was listen to their songs and figure out all of the intricate harmonies. While First Aid Kit continues to generate new material, they forever carry that special sound you remember when you first heard their music, an inherently special quality in a young band.