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Turner Hall attendees Thursday evening included a pack of bright eyed front-and-center teenagers, men with sports-logo tee shirts, and affectionate couples. Not exactly the types you’d expect to pay to watch a sad, manic Jersey girl whine about heartbreak and depression. But she did it brilliantly. Sharon Van Etten’s music is painfully haunting. There is nothing overtly unique or innovative about what she does, but it works. Her sometimes-deep, sometimes-sweet operatic voice is capable of hypnotizing people’s emotions and making them do her bidding, à la Nico (except with talent). It’d be hard to classify her as a singer-songwriter or a folk singer; there is just something inherently different about her delivery. She recently learned how to rock for her latest album, Tramp. The crowd seemed intrigued when she manhandled an omnichord for “Magic Chords” and when bassist Doug Keith turned his back to the crowd and bowed his electric bass during “I’m Wrong.” Her voice harmonized flawlessly with new backup singer and multi-instrumentalist Heather Broderick. Although Van Etten joked about being a not-quite professional, this was blatantly untrue. The Turner Hall multimedia performance included a projection screen behind the group with black and white underwater bubbles and abstract fireflies. A non-intrusive fog machine was reminiscent of a crowded, smoky concert hall, minus the stink. When the music got quiet, the lights went down and the audience went silent. The teenagers didn’t last long and disappeared shortly after the previous group, Tennis, finished their set. Tennis was equally engaging but contrarily poppy. The Denver four-piece has only been around for a couple years, but has collected a deservingly loyal following. Alaina Moore, the vocalist/keyboardist is married to the guitarist, Patrick Riley, and they are adorable. Moore seems to have too much voice for such a small person, and this is a good thing. Her words are is inviting and infectious, and she dances. The music is catchy and they’re nice too—Moore took a request and altered the end of the set to appease a fan. Yellow Ostrich opened the show. The three-piece’s repertoire was a manifestation of lead singer (and Wisconsin native) Alex Schaff’s personal musings enhanced with several non-traditional instruments—a trumpet, flugelhorn, and saxophone—a nice warmup to the other bands’ multi-instrumental experiments. The fans who arrived at door time and stuck it all the way through definitely got their $20 worth. Nearly four-and-a-half hours later, people were still glued to the stage and mesmerized by Sharon’s voice. While there’s potential for more experimentation on her part, she’s not done yet. Keep an eye out for her on tour in the U.S. and Europe now through November, because she’s booked solid all the way through.

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