I remember my first experience listening to Christopher Owens. A few years back, I had the likes for a guy I was working with. We grew a relationship over talking about music that we loved and discovered. He told me in the middle of May to listen to a song called “Hellhole Ratrace” by Girls. That feeling was unlike anything else that stirred up inside of me. Instantly hooked, I looked up everything there was to know about Girls. And although the band has been broken up for some time, Owens- the heart and lead of Girls, set out for his solo career in 2013.
For the past year, I found myself a recluse. For the same first reasons I fell in love with the brilliance that is Christopher Owens, I found myself revisiting those Girls albums and his first solo album, Lysandre. His music is therapy, his voice a guidance, his lyrics an enlightenment. You can imagine my happiness when I finally had the chance to see him live last Wednesday.
Music Hall of Williamsburg hosted an intimate show which left me with infinite satisfaction and a heart filled of more emotion than I could have ever imagined. Two colossally talented backup singers stood side-stage, belting out their souls and imbuing the room with a magnificent aura of love and heartache. The band – including vocalists Skyler Jordan, Makeda Francisco, and Traci Nelson; John Anderson on lead guitar; Danny Eisenberg on the organ; Darren Weiss drumming; Ed Efira playing pedal steel; and David Sutton on bass -played alluringly together, the result of a long tour spent rendering Owens’ love-and-life-weary songs. Owens can be a shoe gazer, but wore a cowboy hat graciously for some of his set, a hint at his affinity for classic Americana anthems. He opened up with a marvelous rendition of “My Ma” and proceeded with more Girls songs while mixing in tracks from his latest record, The New Testament.
Alongside his number one honey, his Rickenbacker, and his six-piece band, Owens created dense, lush soundscapes, nothing more beautifully paired than the church-sounding organ and guitar noodling. He likes to jam too, and passionately. I stood alongside fans crying as “Jamie Marie” started. The crowd continued to feel the aches as he played “Stephen,” backup singers sounding like angels fitting for an homage to his late brother. However, with all the tenderness there was, we shared lively moments too. His first single from The New Testament, “Nothing More Than Everything To Me,” had us dancing and clenching stranger’s hands. With cowboy hat included, “Never Wanna See That Look Again” finally gave us a taste of that charm.
Christopher Owens was a million things that night: brilliant, a genius, honest, respectful, appreciative. For me, he was hopeful. Some of us might have been worried that we would never see him again on stage, blessed by his presence, perhaps with the underlying anxiety that Owens may abruptly leave the music scene again. But in those moments, center stage and looking at him teary-eyed, Owens seems permanently bound by something bigger than his resignations. There remains something concrete in Christopher Owens’ music that spoke to the crowd and myself that very night, cementing Owens as a storyteller of the highest order. Polite and appreciative, he gave a sincere ‘thank you’ after every song. But true thanks belongs to Owens himself, for giving me the hope that I needed.