It hasn’t been the easiest year for Laura Gibson. The Portland musician moved to the Big Apple last fall to pursue a master’s in creative writing. Almost instantly, she broke her foot. A few months later, her apartment complex burned to the ground—something Gibson refers to as “a bit of a setback.” 

Away from the chaos and back in Portland on June 13, playing a solo set of mostly new material at the historic Old Church, Gibson seemed at ease. She would have had every right to be pissed off. Instead, she joked about the way New York smells and the merits of train travel. She was thankful, smiling and upbeat. From opening on the church's towering organ to a spell on the in-house piano, Gibson took advantage of her surroundings. Her brittle vocals creaked and cracked with every syllable, forcing the listener to take in the clever lyrics. She's very much a writer and you can sense a process in every song, especially the newer ones. "I may rewrite this one entirely," she said before working through another.

That, in particular, made the already intimate show even more intriguing. The audience was treated to material Gibson is still fiddling with, folksy blueprints made from cutting lyrics and delicate melodies. She pulled a bit from her last record, La Grande (“Milk-Heavy, Pollen-Eyed,” and the title track), but focused primarily on her self-described “wobbly” new stuff. 

Standouts included “Damn Sure,” which would be right at home on an early Dylan record, and “Empire Builder,” a song Gibson wrote en route to New York. Fittingly, she concluded with “This Is Not The End,” asking the audience to help fill in the chorus. It’s certainly just the beginning for her next record, which holds a lot of promise. And hopefully it is the end of her dance with bad luck. 

All photos by Rachael Renee Levasseur.