3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19104
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
“A friend told me it was Saturn returns and that may be true. I was about to turn thirty and I knew that if I didn’t change direction I was going to end up exactly where I was headed.”
At the end of Leif Vollebekk’s twenties, his own songs didn’t sound right. He had spent an entire year on the road, playing almost 100 shows, but every night his favourite moment came only right at the end, covering a song by Ray Charles or Townes Van Zandt. Every time he got home from tour he took a hot shower and lay still under a window, listening to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, feeling saved, wondering why his own music didn’t give him that. Why the songs he had written himself always felt like so much work.
He booked himself a secret show. One night only at a Montreal dive bar – not to play his own songs but other people’s. Leif found a rhythm section and they rehearsed once. Then midnight unspooled. Leif called it the most fun he had ever had playing music: Ray Charles and Tom Waits over a locked groove; Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar over a slow pulse. The light was dark blue and purple.
It was time, Leif understood, to make a dark blue and purple record. An album of locked groove and slow pulse, heavy as a fever. And the lesson he learned from singing all those other people’s songs was that none of those other artists seemed worried about anything except laying down their own souls, flat out. “I used to think, ‘This will be kinda like a Neil Young song,’ ‘This will be kinda like a Bob Dylan song,’” he recalled. “I kinda ran out of people to imitate. And then there was just me.”
His first new song came to him on his bicycle. He wasn’t thinking, wasn’t trying, but the rhythm, the chords, the melody – it all just fluttered up. He tried at first to let it go: the song was wasn’t meticulous enough, it wasn’t studied or conceived. The next morning it still came back to him, incontestable. “I told myself, ‘You’re never saying ‘no’ to a song ever again,’” Leif said. “I realized I had been saying ‘no’ to a lot of songs, over the years.” Twin Solitude is what happened when Leif stopped saying no. The songs started coming so fast: fully formed, impossible. “Vancouver Time” took 15 minutes; “Telluride” took less. It was as if the songs were waiting for him. Instead of obsessing about the details of recording, “I just showed up to the studio and went, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”
What happened was, they got it: “Big Sky Country” and its patient, coasting tranquility, “Into the Ether”, which rides to reverie with the Brooklyn string duo Chargaux. There’s “East of Eden”, an interpolation of Gillian Welch, which doesn’t seem like it ever ought to end. For a beautiful album, Twin Solitude is deceptively brave, filled with unexpected refrains. “When the cards get stuck together / so hard to pull them apart,” Leif sings, “I think your face is showing.” Then: “Ain’t the first time that it’s snowing.”
Yet in its heart, above all, Twin Solitude is a gesture back to Leif’s long nights under a pink moon, when a record was the only thing that could keep him company. Besides a wink to Hugh MacLennan’s novel Two Solitudes, this is the unlonely loneliness of the album’s title. “It isn’t a record I made for other people – it’s the one I made for myself,” Leif said. “It’s the album I wish I could have put on.”
Listen to it in a rental car in cold weather, with the windows all rolled up. Listen to it laying by an open window. Listen to it all the way through, alone. “By the time the last notes die away, all that’s left should be you,” Leif told me. “And I’ll be somewhere else. And that’s Twin Solitude.”
When Laurel Sprengelmeyer began performing as Little Scream in 2008, she played her first shows in Montreal using only a battered Stratotone guitar, a cigarette amp, and a mic on the floor so her feet could serve as percussion. "That's why I always wore high heels. They made the best stomping sounds." She would wail and coo, imitating the sounds of missing instruments that ended up as siren calls on her 2011 debut The Golden Record (Secretly Canadian/Outside Music), which Pitchfork called "a perfectly mixed bag of graceful folk, coiled pop, and expansive art rock" and NPR dubbed "absolutely captivating." If that album was Little Scream's searching, enchanting first step into the world, then Cult Following is the badass landmark cementing her place there.
Little Scream says she began conceiving of Cult Following while visiting a friend in a small intentional community in northern Brazil that was on the verge of becoming a cult. "People were running around reading auras, interpreting each other's dreams, and 'living on light' instead of eating-which was as compelling as it was absurd. I became very aware of the entropy of belief. You could feel the magnetism of ideas take shape and pull people into their center like a black hole a thing so filled with light that its own gravity means that none of it can escape."
That experience laid the groundwork for Cult Following, a lush, expansive, retro-leaning gem that straddles intimate fragility with bombastic dancefloor-ready songs. Listening to it is like reading an epic novella-part fairy tale, part ecstasy, and part human folly. Right from the start, you know you've entered a universe with its own rules-dazzling, dark, and whimsical, not unlike Willy Wonka's gated factory. From the candy-filled ballroom of "Love as a Weapon" (which is as accessible as it is emotionally complex), you are invited onto the comforting ship of the warm ballad "Evan," only to find that "the waves are falling/they're falling in faster, and the ship has no master here comes disaster!" When the shipwreck subsides, you find yourself in the dark depths of the song "Wishing Well," where Mary Margaret O'Hara makes a stunning, subtle vocal appearance. Mary Margaret is one of several guests to appear on this record, along with Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, and Kyp Malone. Encountering them is not unlike having cameo stars within a film, but the world they inhabit is entirely Little Scream's, and her voice acts as a tour guide through lush and sometimes terrifying sonic landscapes carefully constructed with her creative partner, Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry.
Willy Wonka is perhaps analogous to Little Scream herself. A relative social media recluse, she seems to spend most of her time hiding out in a creative utopia. A fourth-generation painter (one of her pieces appears on the cover of The Golden Record), her works are layered and carefully rendered with pathos and magic realism. For the cover of Cult Following, she constructed a three-dimensional model of one of her paintings to be photographed within-a gesture that illustrates her dedication to creating a complete contextual world for herself and this album to exist in.
Cult Following is a record that deserves to be listened to from start to finish, with each song having been constructed to meld seamlessly into the next. There may be those who listen only to the record's obvious catchy hit, but they would be missing out on the depth of stunners like "Wishing Well" and "Someone Will Notice." Like a classic novella, you must pass through all of the record's stages to fully experience a triumphant hero's journey.
$15 SRO - $18 Seated + Fees
Mezzanine tickets are subject to a premium service fee that will be applied at checkout.