Marissa Nadler @ Littlefield, 7/31/11

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On Sunday, July 31st, Boston dream-folk artist Marissa Nadler played the second-to-last show of her tour with Faces on Film at Littlefield, a performance and art space in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

The quiet night began with Faces on Film, the musical alias of Mike Fiore, a good friend of Nadler. With his richly emotive music and darkly poetic lyrics, Fiore quickly proved himself to be the perfect opening act for Nadler. Using both acoustic and electric guitars, he sang songs that were both sad and soothing. The delivery of these songs was stunning, as the sound quality and acoustics made every note, every lyric, sound beautifully clear without overpowering the space. Towards the end of his set, he did a folksy cover of Clinic’s “Distortion,” a refreshing reference he delivered with strength and vulnerability.

Next up was Marissa Nadler, a mysterious woman even from the beginning of her performance. Her entry onto the stage was so subdued and quiet that there was no applause, just quiet respect. Since she normally performs with a band, Marissa’s solo performance that night added intimacy to the stripped down versions of her songs. After she mentioned this to the crowd, it was clear that all were in for a rare treat.

As it was my first time seeing Marissa, I was unfamiliar with most of her songs but quickly grew to love her sad, haunting, and beautifully feminine songs and onstage presence in the same way that I used to love artists like Mazzy Star. While singing, Marissa seemed to gaze beyond the crowd and remain in a slightly disconnected, lost state, which made her presence even more intriguing to watch.

Later, Mike Fiore returned to the stage to play guitar and add backing vocals for two of Marissa’s songs, “Wedding” and “Puppet Master.” The two sounded absolutely complementary, and their harmonies created an alt-country flavor that really suited each of their voices. One standout song they performed together, which was actually an encore song, was “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You,” a song that truly sounded like it was made for both of them to sing together.

To end the night, Marissa came back on stage and did a solo cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat.” It was an appropriate choice for her since she cites him as one of her greatest influences.

Marissa Nadler’s performances are still small and intimate, but they won’t be for much longer. Catch her performing again in New York on September 9th (with James Vincent McMorrow) at Bowery Ballroom.

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