Julie Byrne (photo: Kaiya Gordon)
Julie Byrne kicked off the first of four performances in San Francisco with a Sunday night show, headlining Swedish American Hall with support from Meernaa and Lila Blue. Julie Byrne will go on to support Whitney for three nights at The Independent starting Monday, but all three shows are sold out.
The Swedish American Hall provided the setting for a lighter, more intimate affair, with plenty of seating options available for those who arrived early enough to catch Lila Blue. The San Francisco-via-New York solo performer is just shy of seventeen years old, but you never would have guessed that, judging from her powerful vocal and songwriting abilities. Even on “Earthbound,” a song she claimed to have written in seventh grade, her lyrics and vocal delivery carry the weight of a life fully lived. Alternating between acoustic guitar and ukulele, Lila Blue charmed the audience with playful banter and stunned everyone with her impassioned folk music.
Meernaa hit the stage as a four-piece live band, with vocalist Carly Bond quickly hitting it off with a friendly audience member. The carefree vibe was maintained throughout the set, with the band performing a genre-bending collection of soulful jams. Utilizing guitar, bass, dual keyboards, and a range of percussion, Meernaa kept us on our toes with quiet-to-loud swells of song progression and jazzy interludes.
Julie Byrne arrived on stage solo, but quickly introduced Eric Littman (who produced her latest album) on synth, and Jake on violin. Julie Byrne said that she spent the previous day at the beach, then proceeded to enchant the audience with songs from her new album, Not Even Happiness. She played acoustic guitar throughout most of her performance, switching over to her sky blue electric guitar for “Natural Blues.” While primarily focusing on newer songs like “Sleepwalker” and “Melting Grid,” she also played a couple songs from her debut album Rooms With Walls and Windows including “Marmalade” and “Prism Song” during the encore. She kept her main set short and sweet, returning for a three-song finale which concluded with a cover of Whitney’s “No Woman” as a tribute to her tour-mates.
While Julie Byrne had expressed an affinity for hiking and outdoor travel throughout her set, she said she was also a huge fan of Ms. Pac-Man, and that she was looking for a place to play the classic arcade game after her show. Somebody in the crowd yelled “Elbo Room!,” and Julie Byrne encouraged fans to come talk to her after the show. She also recommended that fans to sign up for her mailing list, as the artist lacks a social media presence. Catch Julie Byrne opening for Whitney at The Independent through Wednesday this week, or behind a Ms. Pac-Man joystick near you.