Big Thief plays Boston’s Roadrunner with open arms


Colin Doherty

Indie rock band, Big Thief, played at Roadrunner on Wednesday night.

Adrianne Lenker holds her guitar like a mother holding her child. Comforted by its cries and cherishing its brilliance, it is the way Lenker chooses to play out her legacy. With that love, she performs with warmth, with care and for an ocean of fans. A Big Thief concert acts as a familial celebration.

As the doors of Roadrunner venue opened last Wednesday night, fans crowded the brand new venue, excited to see their family members and celebrate “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You,” Big Thief’s most recent and critically-acclaimed record.

Big Thief’s shows have become larger than life while still never feeling self-righteous. Instead of being an expensive spectacle with pyrotechnics and stage design, Big Thief concerts feel much more intimate, like a backyard campfire in the dusk of August.

At no point does it feel like the band is filling venues in order to advertise their new record or a lead single. Instead, this is a labor of love for them that each member holds dearly.

Notably, Big Thief’s setlist on Wednesday night was fairly split between every record they’ve released, from 2016’s “Masterpiece” to “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You,” giving off the impression that this is a group of human beings who enjoy playing with each other, jamming out and spending any time they can together.

The band members (lead vocalist and guitarist Adrianne Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, drummer James Krivchenia and bass player Max Oleartchik) consistently moved inward toward each other, cherishing each individual’s brilliance and understanding that the closer they get, the better they play.

Lenker performed a new, seemingly solo, song towards the end of the show and, beautifully, the three others silently watched their friend with visible pride. 

Meek, Krivchenia and Oleartchik stayed still, smiling and nodding their heads in unison, letting Lenker do what she does best — make sense of our realities through the voice of Americana.

Earlier in the show, the band performed “Black Diamonds,” a cut from 2017’s “Capacity,” in which Lenker performs in baritone, crying into the microphone “Come on, let me make a man outta you / I could gather you, and you tell the truth / You could cry inside my arms / You could cry inside my arms like a child / You could cry inside my arms like a baby.”

When performing “Black Diamonds,” Lenker suddenly becomes the most animated she’s ever been. 

For somebody who often keeps their body language toned down, Lenker played this song with so much vigor, putting her whole body into it — pacing back and forth, moving her arms like a marionette and singing from the deepest hell she can find in her heart. 

At this moment in the show, it is understood that Lenker is the best front person in live music right now.

Krivchenia is hard to ignore as well, hitting his drums like a zealous mad man. His drumming stands out throughout the concert, constantly making even their most subdued songs into rousing anthems. 

When looking at Krivchenia, playing the drums seems to be a sport. With well-earned sweat dripping down his jaw-dropped mouth, he pushes himself further and further throughout the show, leaving everything all out on the stage. 

He sounds and acts like he could be your favorite drummer’s favorite drummer, as if there are thousands of drum-fanatics putting up posters of him on their bedroom walls. He may actually be the best part about a Big Thief concert.

Truthfully, the hardest part about seeing a Big Thief show is trying to focus on each member individually. 

Along with Lenker’s might and Krivchenia’s stamina, Olearchik and Meek bring distinct playfulness to the stage, with Meek’s brilliant guitar playing and Olearchik’s soulful bass playing.

Throughout the show, Olearchik lovingly sat in front of his bandmates, like a dog and its holder, facing them on multiple occasions, powering each member like a spiritual guide.

For any other band, a member turning their back on the audience may be an act that’s impolite or entitled, but this isn’t any other band. This is Big Thief, a band that understands their greatest instruments may just be their good nature.

For the final song of the night, “Spud Infinity,” Lenker brought out her brother Noah Lenker to play the wildly amusing jaw harp. 

The single from “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You,” is made to be a joyful sing-along, making it the perfect song to end the campfire with.

“What’s it gonna take / To fill this celestial body?” fills the venue, with the crowd often overshadowing Lenker’s own vocals.

Those lines are a perfect sentiment for a Big Thief show. A family is able to come together, wander in the good nature of music, and wonder about something that is much bigger than our own great imagination.

If you’ve seen Big Thief live, you already know all of this. But if you haven’t, welcome to the family.