Tuesday night I went over that odd SoMa denizen Hotel Utah for an early(ish) set by Swedish-but-New-Orleans-based songwriter/ performer Theresa Andersson. A last minute going away dinner for an old-friend–my friends are not all that…organized, shall we say–prevented me from going to her previous (and first, I believe) show in SF, back in September at Amnesia.
A middle-aged man in a cowboy hat and a leather jacket escorted his girlfriend into the Utah moments before I went in. It was that sort of night. Theresa Andersson is in many genres–pop, jazz, soul, and funk among them–and in no genre. That sort of situation can leave one with no audience or with everyone as your audience. With a mixed group of people filling the small Hotel Utah, I can imagine Andersson is on her way to the latter.
Going into the performance area of the Utah, one immediately saw an intense set up: an arc of pedals (loop pedals, processors, echo, distortion, etc), a couple guitars, a violin, a mountain dulcimer (not one of those wimpy hammered dulcimers), a couple drums, tambourine, etc. She even had a record player. Standing in front of this whole mess of instruments with only a tambourine and the bar filled with chatter, she started her set singing soulfully and hitting the tambourine. Starting this way in front of an audience of fans is impressive but not all that astounding. In front of an unconvinced people is quite impressive.
As I alluded to before, her sound is varied. It doesn’t seem to be an affection, but rather the product of her environment. She’s got the soulful voice and jazz stylings of a New Orleans songstress but she’s also got the over-the-top pop sensibilities of her native Sweden. She jumps fluidly between these styles and mixes them together often during her set.
Her set was pretty impressive and it’s something to behold. I’ve seen plenty of people use loop pedals and use them well (Andrew Bird, Laura Veirs, etc.) She is perhaps not as precise or polished as Bird, but she’s got a wider variety of instruments and sounds. I mean, during “Birds Fly Away” (see below), she dropped a Smokey Johnson drum sample into the mix from a record mid-song. Who can start a record to millisecond accuracy?
Beyond that, she’s fun to watch. She dances and sways. During “The Waltz” for instance, she danced a waltz. Tip-toed steps and arm flourishes become commonplace by the end of the set. Her sound is also so varied that things stay interesting.
Andersson returns to the Hotel Utah this coming Thursday:
1/22 Theresa Andersson @ Hotel Utah, 9pm, $10, 21+
I recommend seeing her; it’s quite a show and she’s a talented performer.