Show Review: Myriam Gendron at Holocene

The set took on extra vibrancy when tourmates Jim White and Marisa Anderson joined on songs.

Myriam Gendron (Bandcamp)

When watching Myriam Gendron at her first-ever Portland performance at Holocene last Monday, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her hands. The French Canadian folk singer-songwriter’s fingerstyle guitar work was so precise, each note plucked out with intent and care, that she had me rapt, stuck on every last movement of her fingers.

I also found myself feeling that the exacting approach that she took to her playing started to render elements of her otherwise stunning songs, many of them taken from Not So Deep as a Well, an album of Dorothy Parker poems set to music that was co-released by local label Mama Bird in 2014, as occasionally stiff. Which is also why my favorite moments of the set were when she invited tourmates Marisa Anderson and Jim White to back her up on a few songs.

The musicians, both of whom played on Gendron’s new album, Mayday, brought a welcome looseness to the material. Especially White, a drummer who has long employed a freeform approach to his playing. There were moments when he played just ahead of the beat on “Terres brûlées” and added heavy strikes on the floor tom that acted as oxygen to that song’s smoldering embers.

It also served to acclimate the audience to Anderson and White’s set, which was wonderfully, radically different in tone and attack from Gendron’s. The two sat close by one another, all the better for White to track the movements and fury of Anderson’s guitar work and vice versa. They responded to each other almost telepathically, moving from gushing waves of sound to wispier moments. It was as if the two were attempting to soundtrack a major weather event as it moved over a rural landscape, dampening and shaking everything in its path.

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