Alice Phoebe Lou evokes emotion during concert at The Red Room at Cafe 939

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Alice Phoebe Lou evokes emotion during concert at The Red Room at Cafe 939

Shayla Manning / Journal Staff

Shayla Manning / Journal Staff

Shayla Manning / Journal Staff

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South African singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou delivered a set overflowing with hazy, stripped-down indie sounds at her intimate sold out show at The Red Room at Cafe 939 last Tuesday. Joined by several members of her band, Lou previewed songs from her new album, “Paper Castles,” which was released on Friday, March 8.

Cafe 939 is a Berklee College of Music student-run coffee house that features live performances from students, as well as up-and-coming artists from around the world. Since the venue is open to all ages, the crowd for Lou was a diverse one.

The show was opened by London artist Lookman Adekunle Salami, known by his stage name L.A. Salami. With only an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and his soothing vocals, he expressed tales of love, heartbreak and everyday life.

“That song was about having a bad week. This song is about having a bad time. See the theme?” said Salami in between songs as he tuned his guitar.

Although full of melancholy, Salami’s Bob Dylan-esque style set the mood for Lou’s performance by sending a meditative wave over the crowd.

Opening her set with the 2018 single “Something Holy” off her new album, Lou’s bone-chilling vocals evoked all different kinds of emotions. What started as an expression of love and warmth quickly turned into that of pain, leaving listeners in awe of her capabilities.

Lou was very active with the crowd, admitting how jet-lagged her and the rest of the band were from their flight to the states. While they experienced some difficulty with their passports,  became stranded in the United Kingdom for several days and had to cancel several shows, Lou was excited to play her first U.S. show in Boston.

While she mostly focused on new songs, Lou also integrated several old ones. She always had a few words to say about her tracks, which reinforced the idea that she has a deeply rooted connection to each one. With an abundance of synth and smooth guitar, each song defied any style one may categorize it as on first listen.

“This next one is a bit of a melancholic sad guy. It’s good to be sad sometimes,” said Lou before performing her 2014 track “Grey.” Oozing with emotion and soul, Lou’s moody guitar tones backed by bass and a quiet, steady beat from the drums created a space for everyone to lose themselves in and connect to their own feelings of love and loss.

Lou and her band also played a cover of “Hot Dreams” by Canadian group Timber Timbre that showcased the talented instrumental work they were all capable of.

It’s rare to find an artist that is as utterly honest with their crowd as Lou was. Her music catalogs the journey as a young woman navigating a patriarchal society, that seems to push aside the struggles women face daily. She shared these intimate stories through her blend of jazz-folk-blues that seemed to make everyone listening feel included, not just women.

Her track “Skin Crawl” off her latest album does just that. She made sure to give some description of the song before she began, but also left enough room for the crowd to find their own meaning within it.

“It’s about after one too many times going out and trying to have fun, and having that fun snatched from grimy hands,” said Lou. “It’s not a man hating or bashing song at all, it’s a song about feminism that we can all benefit from.”

This song among others like “New Song” and “My Outside” embody the larger messages Lou is trying to convey on “Paper Castles,” such as the journey of womanhood and the pain, but also joy of the past and the memories made along the way.

Although Lou’s songs carry deeply emotional and heavy meanings, her personality beamed in between songs as she joked and laughed with the crowd. Between chugging down water bottles after singing her heart out on each song, Lou joked about there being no bar at the cafe.

“Well, we’ll all just be dehydrated together! Who knows, it could be a hallucinatory experience,” said Lou.

She closed out her set with the powerful and energetic track “She.” Lou’s deep and riveting voice seemed to float with ease over the upbeat, dance-like drums, with a whimsical energy embedded in the instrumental work. Lou’s spirit reached to all corners of the room throughout her entire set, creating a truly ethereal experience.

Alice Phoebe Lou and her band have an extensive tour ahead of them, with several more stops in the U.S. before heading to the U.K. in support of “Paper Castles.”

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