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November 17, 2010

Joanna Newsom on groupies, her band, and 'Have one on me'

Joanna Newsom has reached a place where she has groupies.

They’re not the Penny Lane types or have her likeness stiched on throw pillows. She’s a harpist, after all. She has groupies the way Sarah Vowell has groupies.

“I don’t know if they would call themselves groupies, but there are people that follow me from town to town,” said, before adding the requite, “It’s very sweet.”

Six years after the release of her first album, “The Milk-Eyed Mender,” Newsom has gone from playing small venues like San Francisco’s Du Nord café to playing Rams Head Live, where she’ll perform Sunday.

Her new album, “Have one on me,” debuted in 7th place on Billboard’s independent charts.

At this point, her fans can recite all ten minutes of “Emily,” from her last album, “Ys” and just as easily pivot to one of the small symphonies in the new one.

Newsom inspires breathless devotion, the way people treasure things they don’t think others will appreciate. When she picked the songs on the 90-minute show - a quarter from “Mender,” a quarter from “Ys” and the rest from her new album, “Have one on me” – she did it with her groupies in mind.

“I want to make sure they hear as many songs as possible,” she said. “I believe every song gets played at some point during the tour.”

The show she’s touring with is not unlike her music: complicated, full of unfamiliar sounds and references, and only deceptively brittle.

Though they may sound like gossamer love songs on record, Newsom “shreds” her harp live, as the Village Voice put it after a recent New York show.

And behind her, she’ll have two violinists, a drummer, and a multi-instrumentalist who plays, among other things, a tambura, a sitar-like string instrument.

“I do a few solo songs, but I choose ones that are more dynamic and more instrumentally varied to take advantage of this band I have with me.” The effect is to dispel the notion that just because she plays the harp, hers is chamber music.

“Bearing in mind that people are sitting in their seats, I want there to be as much energy as possible,” she said. “Theres a lot happening musically. It’s not a hushed show in general.”

If you go: Joanna Newsom will perform Sunday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $27.50. Call 410-244-1131 or go to

Also see:

Photo: Pitch Perfect PR

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Posted by Erik Maza at 9:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Music News


Can't believe she's playing at this sh*tty place in Baltimore.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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