Chances are, if you read this site or anything about music on the internet, you heard about Ryn Weaver this summer. Back in June, Weaver appeared, seemingly apropos of nothing, on SoundCloud with “OctaHate,” a song that garnered considerable buzz because A) it’s a really great, infectious song, and B) the murderer’s row of people involved. Charli XCX co-wrote, Benny Blanco and Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos and Cashmere Cat produced. And then Jessie Ware and Hayley Williams and Tom Krell of How To Dress Well all tweeted it. The whole thing made Weaver ascendant overnight, and also yielded criticism from writers and readers alike, with people assuming Weaver was nothing more than an industry creation, or a rich kid with connections. (It’s kind of amazing how worked up people still get about the former in 2014.) Weaver herself took to the Stereogum comments section to set it a bit straight, and later spoke to Chris for an Artist To Watch feature, in which they talked about how, while the arrival of Ryn Weaver was sudden and definite, she’d been kicking around and working on material under her real name, Aryn Wuthrich, and briefly as FemFemFem first.
Regardless of the circumstances and trajectory, the simple fact is when Ryn Weaver showed up, it was in the sort of already refined form that’s rare in debut artists — she seems like she knows her voice and how to use it, and “OctaHate” especially traveled in some corner of the weird undefined space between pop and indie that she’d already claimed as her own. As a result, there was a bit of a spotlight on her this particular week. CMJ marks some of Weaver’s first ever live performances, last night’s show at Bowery Ballroom being billed as her first “official” appearance.
I went into Bowery not really knowing what to expect crowd-wise, and I left not really knowing what I experienced crowd-wise. There were far more teenagers than I’m used to seeing at NYC shows — while at the same there were far more fifty- or sixty-somethings than I’m accustomed to seeing at the sort of shows I usually go to at Bowery Ballroom. Based on the sort of obnoxious level of chatter at the back of the room, it came off like there was at least a smattering of industry people there to check out Weaver who, you know, didn’t see fit to actually pay attention or whatever. Aside from that, there was also an intense, fervent enthusiasm considering this was a group of people who had gathered to see an artist who has released four songs so far. Many people showed up with multi-colored face paint streaking down from their eyes to their jaw, like Weaver wore in the “OctaHate” video.
Given Weaver’s very new to performing this material live, there were a few things she still seemed to be figuring out, like which dance moves she prefers or where to look when she’s singing. The production behind her was impressive — the synths were turned way up, and each song from the EP sounded a little more giant inside the small-ish space at Bowery. The drawback of this was: The production was so tight and elaborate (there were copious amounts of backing tracks filling out particular choruses, as to remain close to the studio versions), that at times it was hard to tell which specific sounds Weaver herself was responsible for. This was primarily an issue in opener “Promises,” but got sorted out as the show went on. When she performed an excellent cover of Susanne Sundfor’s haunting “White Foxes,” her voice shone through at its strongest of the night. That is, until closer “OctaHate,” which was heavy and cathartic and anything you’d want it to be live.
Weaver’s set totaled six songs — the four tracks from her EP, a piano ballad called “Here Is Home” that didn’t make the EP, and the aforementioned Sundfor cover. The reception, pretty much, was rapturous. Weaver seemed like she was still floored by how her last four months have gone, and was gracious the whole time. Before “OctaHate,” she told a story about standing in the crowd at Bowery Ballroom two years ago, when she was still at NYU and still dating a bad ex. She was talking to an artist friend, and suddenly had a revelation that she needed to leave NYC and focus on her music. I’ve got a soft spot for the triumphant return and/or homecoming narrative, especially when it involves this city. In a week that gave us one of the most delusional and tone-deaf NYC would-be anthems in recent years, it was cool to see Weaver talk about this, cool to see her return and get to prove wrong those obnoxious NYU artist kids she was forced to deal with. (I knew plenty of those people, too.) I’m looking forward to whatever she comes up with next.