I remember first catching Julien Baker at SXSW in a church many years ago. It was basically the perfect place to enjoy her deeply personal, sparsely arranged sad rock. But with critical acclaim and each album release, her shows have grown both in depth of sound and in size of audience. The Wiltern played home to her last Thursday night and was packed.
Baker is touring in support of her latest release, Little Oblivions that dropped in February. It’s a long-awaited follow-up to her sophomore record four years ago. In the time in between she toured as boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus and wrote this most recent record.
The Tennessee-bred singer-songwriter has continued to grow with each album and this latest one is a home run. Her sound is fit to play to a crowd of that size, as her beautiful vocals were drenched in moody layers — except when revisiting her early work in the middle of the show, where it was just Baker on stage.
The show included a drop-in by boygenius mate Phoebe Bridgers — and it reminded my how I once saw these two share a bill at the El Rey (with Aussie singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin as well) many years ago. It was for the Baker song “Favor”, from her latest record, and the crowd when nuts when she stepped onto the stage in an all white outfit and lended her vocals.
Many of Baker’s songs are so gut wrenching — and then she counters it with such kindness in between, profusely thanking the crowd for their support. The gratitude was returned tenfold.
Check her out when she’s in your town!
Photos by Betsy Martinez