Angel Olsen at the Joy Theater

Mackenzie Camp, Staff Writer

Corwin Almo

Concertgoers shuffled into the Joy Theater in downtown New Orleans on Jan. 21, a low-key Saturday night for the Angel Olsen concert. Through her indie folk and alternative country music, Olsen creates a dreamy world of soothing vocals and a lush soundscape caught between Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton. Olsen has released six studio albums since her first in 2012. Following the death of her parents in 2021, Olsen channeled her grief into her 2022 album, “Big Time,” which explores love and the fickleness of time. 

Erin Rae, Olsen’s opener, sang with a noticeable Nashville twang and heavier country influences than Olsen. She approached the mic with humility and apologized for her jitteriness — she drank too much iced coffee. The atmosphere was relaxed like a bonfire as Rae sang of heartbreak and jealousy in friendships, all explored in her latest album, “Lighten Up.” With every song, she joked about how she needed to lighten up before delving into another slow, heart-wrenching song. The crowd was pensive and melancholy except for the high school student beside me who wanted to clap along to the meditative songs. Rae’s strongest moment came during her song, “Bad Mind,” which tackles growing up in the South and juggling the opposing forces of sexual expression and religion. 

The concert was intimate, as if the audience was composed of familiar faces who were indulging their friend in a song or two before all going out together afterward. Olsen appeared like a 1950s woman with grayish-blue cigarette pants and a matching collared shirt. She approached the stage with casualty and perfectly messy hair. Her demeanor was conversational and soothing, and the entire concert possessed a quiet introspection that could only come with Olsen’s vulnerability.

Olsen crooned into the microphone during “Through the Fires,” which talks about letting go of the past to move forward. Seeing Olsen sing live and hearing her from against the barricade was an emotional and moving experience. At times, I was in disbelief that the woman before me could omit such pain and beauty. Large chunks of the concert disappeared from my mind, and I was trapped elsewhere, taking on the weight of her lyrics and letting them fall over me like a weighted blanket, rooting me to the sticky floor. 

“I’m so tired of saying I’m tired,” Olsen cries. “It’s a hard time again,” she sings in “This is How it Works,” her vocals reminiscent of Dolly Parton. Her performance reminded me of country music I like — of songs like Parton’s “The Bridge,” which details female sorrow and depression, of aching music that sounds so simultaneously soothing. 

She proved herself a lovely performer, transformed elsewhere by the poignant understanding of loneliness. Her songs feel like curling up with a mug of tea, ready to cry to your mother. Olsen’s concert makes me want to stay in bed all day, recalling how the red and magenta lights oscillated around her, encapsulating her in a distinctly feminine halo. I will need at least a week to recover from the emotional unraveling Olsen’s voice caused me.

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