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Lotte Kestner in LA

Lotte Kestner: Live In Some Dude’s Living Room

Lotte Kestner in LA

Sad music heals.

Teenagers’ bodies grow impossibly fast and, as a result, they are constantly vacillating between states of damage and repair, not unlike muscles after a workout.

Imagine what’s happening to their souls.

My body may have stopped growing, but my soul is still that tormented teenager, suffering from the growing pains that nearly half a lifetime hasn’t seen fit to slow. Sad music is my salve, seeping into the tears and fissures, soothing and comforting without judgment.

In a musical environment dominated by pop that is chemically sweetened, compressed, and shrink-wrapped so it will taste the same whether delivered through ear buds and an iPhone display, or a three-story HD monitor and two-ton speaker arrays, Friday night’s Lotte Kestner living room show was a revelation. An aural spa day. A cleansing.

There were no screens, no stadium seats, no overpriced beer, no t-shirts for sale. Instead, we had a threadbare oriental rug, a battered Naugahyde sofa, a display of vintage instant cameras on the mantle, and a vinyl collection that would make even the most calloused hipster drool into his unruly beard.

I’ve seen some amazing concerts—Oingo Boingo, Muse, and Rush among the most spectacular—but for completely different reasons, I suspect this show will outrank them all in my memory. It was a night I will never forget.

Swim Lessons (AKA Christopher Lintner)

Christopher Lintner of Swim Lessons

Christopher Lintner named his one-man, lo-fi folk act after a childhood near-death experience that left him haunted with a recurring dream of drowning. Seriously, it’s the best band name story I’ve ever heard. His mumbling tenor evokes Pete Yorn, and his funk/folk, finger-style telecaster wailing brings to mind the likes of Jeff Buckley. I found myself closing my eyes and drifting in the sea of spring reverb and thoughtful melancholy. Mr. Lintner is still developing his craft—but each song he played was better than the last. He’s on to something. I’ll be listening.

Kevin Long

Kevin Long

I wish I could muster a concise and illuminating this-meets-that comparison for Mr. Long. His finger-style guitar work is almost classical, laden with unexpected suspensions and harmonics that make those little hairs on your arms stand up. His voice is so familiar, so deceptively casual, that it goes straight to your heart before you have time to admire how talented and skilled the singer is. Kevin’s lyrics betray a wisdom and a sorrow that defy his youth. If Scrubs or House were still on, Kevin could write and perform the song for every slow-mo end-of-episode wrap up, and it would end up on your break-up playlist. And you’d love every teary minute.

Lotte Kestner (AKA Anna-Lynne Williams)

Anna-Lynne Williams of Lotte Kestner

I should warn you: I could write a doctoral thesis on the inadequately celebrated genius of Ms. Anna-Lynne Williams. Her lyrics are poetic without being stilted or pretentious. She sings like an angel bound to earth by her broken heart. (See, that sounded pretentious. She could say it better—but she’s too modest.) Oh, and she plays guitar with the instrument flat in her lap, sound hole facing the heavens. I keep forgetting to ask her why.

For the purpose of this post, I will attempt to set aside my feelings and be vaguely journalistic—but mostly, I just want you to go buy her records. Every second this woman spends hawking her own wares is another song the world will never have. On your heads be it! Stop reading right now and go listen to these three songs: Catch Not Break, Halo, and Bell Under Water.

Anna-Lynne Williams named her solo project after Charlotte Kestner, the woman behind Goethe’s autobiographical novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther; and, while her lyrics certainly live up to the eclectic, literary quality of her namesake, Anna-Lynne’s music works its most potent magic not on your intellect, but on your soul. Songs like “Bell Under Water” and “Until” hypnotize you with their simplicity and then leave you aching. While Williams is probably best known as the voice and songwriter behind Trespassers William, her solo career since the band’s dissolution has been twice as prolific and infinitely more free. She’s released acoustic demo-style recordings and covered everyone from Catherine Wheel to Beyoncé—and then there’s her latest release, the electronic-influenced Until.

Watching her perform, sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor with a borrowed guitar in her lap was like having tea with Emily Dickinson as she reads you a few of her works in progress—a singular experience I wish every fan could have. And yet, it pains me that she can do living room shows. I know, I know, the grass is always greener—but part of me still dreams of a world in which the guys from One Direction have to prove their love of music by touring the west coast in a van—while artists like Lintner, Long and Williams sip overpriced liquor and laugh backstage at the Grammys.

Until then, I will write posts like this and thank the gods of music for nights like Friday.

acoustic, alternative, christopher lintner, concert review, concerts, folk, kevin long, lotte kestner, music, music review, reviews, rock, shoegaze, swim lessons

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

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