Nandi Rose Plunkett, the woman behind Half Waif, emerges onstage clad in a dark dress and a white mesh coat, which lends her an almost medical aura as she takes her position behind her synths. In contrast to other indie shows I’ve seen at the Rickshaw Stop, Plunkett never attempts to use the emotion in her songs as an excuse to deliver a sloppy performance. She has all the trappings of an indie star — she’s remarkably approachable, still playing intimate venues, shouts out her merch person by name — but there’s never a note out of place. Even her movements onstage are perfectly in tempo with her heavy, percussive synths, despite clearly being spontaneous. Plunkett is an artist who knows what she’s doing.
The Bay Area has the rare privilege to be a place that musicians actually like to visit on tour. The culture has been somewhat diluted as of late (looking at you, tech bros), but it’s still nice to hear artists in the middle of a grueling tour compliment the place you live. Though I’ve become pretty numb to the generic “Ya’ll have great weed” lip service, when Plunkett does eventually stop the show to greet the audience, I am genuinely flattered by the way she speaks about the Bay Area. “I’m always practicing for shows in my living room, thinking ‘this is what it could be like,’” she says. “Tonight really feels like I’m in my living room.”
A few songs after this pause, Plunkett announces that she’s going to play “Leveler,” an intensely emotional and personal song about the passing of her grandmother. The skeptic in me who still believed that the comments about her comfort were merely mid-show platitudes was left red-faced after the first chord. The audience is still as Plunkett memorialized her grandmother, not daring to move or speak as she sings over a minimalist piano backing. Her voice is full of emotion and, when the song finally ends, she takes a deep breath and gathers herself before launching into her new song.
Plunkett draws a distinct line between her onstage and offstage persona. During the openers, she is in the crowd with everyone else, hair down, chatting with fans, white lab coat nowhere to be seen. As she dons her costume and puts her hair up, she seems to grow three feet taller. She ends the show with the first track off Lavender (2018), “Lavender Burning.” After the show she’s immediately back in the crowd, chatting with fans. Despite being in full getup, she still puts herself on the exact same level as the people in the crowd. She’s excited when they’re excited, and she’s sincere when they’re sincere. It’s clear that she genuinely loves the performance and mutual interaction that comes with playing live music, and that makes every aspect of the concert ten times more enjoyable.