Thao Nguyen
Returning from a six week national tour, a well-seasoned Thao with The Get Down Stay Down encountered a sold out hometown crowd on Saturday night, a surefire sign that her increasing exposure and critical acclaim has firmly planted her as one the city’s rising stars. Countless interviews, blogs and articles pride Thao for weaving a lyrical tapestry of her love’s misfortunes front and center — most of which are brightly masked with cowlicks of old R&B and c&w-inflected guitar — but the way in which she performs, interspersing accomplished guitar amidst her spastic, nearly epileptic catharses is a sight to behold.

It’s hard to hold oneself back when you see something like this happening before your eyes, and the crowd was pretty much at her mercy out of the gate. I heard some dude complaining about his drunk friend who kept turning to him and slurring “she is so awesome…” like fifty times. Safe to say, most of the room probably experienced about fifty of those moments too throughout the course of the set.

Portland Cello Project, which features up to eight cellists performing simultaneously, served well in warming up the room with numerous audience-participating renditions of pop cultural gems such as Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. A few members joined Thao later on for her most notably quiet, though no less affecting pre-encore number. It appears some of their recorded material features a wide variety of guest vocalists (incl. Thao), but many of whom could not obviously cannot attend all of their live shows, so I recommend checking some of these tunes out in addition to their impressive instrumental arrangements.

I was bummed to have missed out on David Shultz altogether (who hails from Richmond, VA) though upon streaming several of his tunes I liked what I heard, mostly earnest folk tunes that triggered an old Jayhawks fetish, or called to mind the folksier side of Josh Ritter. Hopefully we’ll see him around these parts soon again.