Fall 2023 Round-Up: The Concerts We Haven't Stopped Thinking About

As we head into 2024 and pass official first day of winter, we're reflecting on some of the standout shows from the fall––from the months of September and October when leaves were first starting to fall, November as we looked forward to holiday festivities, and even early December, when we embraced the warm days in between shielding our faces from the cold New York City wind. Here's a list of shows our team and Youth Advisory Council just can't stop thinking about.

December 30, 2023

Sounds of Saving Team

6lack “Since I Have a Lover” Tour
November 2023

We were so honored to be asked by 6lack and his team at LVRN to be joined on his “Since I Have A Lover Tour." 6lack's stance on mental healthcare is admirable and much needed as is the ethos of Love Renaissance. Throughout his career he has promoted vulnerability, healing and emotional growth within his familial-like fan community.

Despite this and like many of us, 6LACK struggles with depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. He realized he needed help after one of the closest people in his life called him out for pretending he had it all together. "Things started to actually fall apart” and he decided to start therapy.

Watching him interact directly with fans before shows and spread joy during his performance is a special thing to behold.

He shared in a PSA:

"The past few years have been especially tough for black people, specifically when it comes to mental health…I want to share my experiences and talk about the resources/things that helped me, in order to spark people to do the same for themselves. Sometimes support is all you need to take the first step, so I want my first step to encourage someone else’s first step.”

SoS Youth Advisory member Solomon shares what it was like to step into this world:

“The moment that touched me the most would have to be when Amirah and her friend stopped by the table. They came with open and friendly energy, sharing stories about when music and mental health have overlapped in their life. On the back of her ‘Song That Found Me at the Right Time” card, Amirah wrote a poem she had been keeping for years. With conviction and emotional vulnerability, Amirah read it aloud at the table, bringing her words to life and her aura palpable. She shared how therapeutic it was to say the poem out loud and appreciated the space to express her sentiments.”

Artists and tours like this - when we get to interact with y'all and see how much impact artists and fans can make together - are why we do what we do. Thank you again to LVRN and 6LACK, and thank you to all that made this tour so great. –– SOS Team

Chappel Roan at House of Blues (Boston, MA)
October 15, 2023

Chappell Roan––the emerging pop-star from Missouri––brought The Midwest Princess Tour to along with Boston’s own drag performers Chanel the Angel, Tara Dikhof, and Kulfi Jaan.

Growing up in a small, religious town, Roan suppressed her feelings for girls throughout her adolescence, writing it off as a phase that would soon dissipate. It wasn’t until she left her hometown for Los Angeles that she embraced her queer identity and found a community of other LGBTQ+ people in the big city. Her shows are a celebration of queer joy, bringing along local drag queens to uplift the queer community in each city. She went through countless hurdles with labels to release her debut albu, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, but it's since ranked in the Top Albums of 2023 among Pop Buzz (#1), Pitchfork, TIME (#4), and Rolling Stone, among other accolades.

Roan sets a theme based on her songs for each night of the tour––assigning colors, costumes, and general vibes to cities across the country. Sunday night, fans were dressed in red and black for "My Kink is Karma," styled with lace, fishnets, cowboy hats, gems and statement jewelry. Barricade liners screamed and waved dollar bills, cheering on the drag queens’ exquisite routines. One lucky fan was brought onstage to be crowned queen of the night with a bedazzled stash––matching the pearls she had arranged in a heart-shape around her face.

Roan opened her set with “Femininomenon” before the track blended into “Red White Supernova.” From just the first few songs, it was evident that we were watching a pop icon in the making.

We had a moment to chat with a fan on the barricade, Orly, who rocked a bedazzled cowboy hat with Roan’s name spelled out in gems: “The universe the Chappell Roan project creates is aspirational, but also self manifesting. When I first heard her music in college in Missouri, I was trying to find a community to celebrate my queerness with and her songs allowed me to imagine bigger versions of myself,” Einhorn said. “Now I'm here, several years later, celebrating that version of myself surrounded by people who get it, even if we're total strangers. They get why I spent 40+ hours on this hat, because it's a form of self expression that in and of itself is freeing. [Chappell’s] really created a beautiful space for us to share in that aspirational self transformation.”

I haven't been able to stop listening to her music since the show––namely "After Midnight," "HOT TO GO!" and "Pink Pony Club." If Roan's not on your radar already, it's about time you catch on. –– Alyssa Goldberg

Tomberlin at Murmrr Theater (Brooklyn, NY)
December 2, 2023

Photo of musician Tomberlin playing guitar and signing in a low-lot concert venue.

On Saturday, December 2nd, once you stepped inside Murmrr Theater and went up three flights of stairs, you were no longer in Brooklyn—you were transported into a haunted mansion. Instead of the typical stage setup, Sarah Beth Tomberlin (known professionally as Tomberlin) opted for virtually no stage at all. The wooden floor became her stage, and with a gloomy aesthetic to the room and fake candles arranged neatly, you knew it would be a special show as soon as you entered and found your seat.

I went into the show, never having seen Tomberlin perform live before. I only knew her music through the acoustics of my noise-canceling headphones, and the privilege of seeing her play a show exceeded the Spotify recordings. I found myself tearing up during the third song on the setlist, “Floor,” from her 2020 EP. A full band—including a violin, piano, drums, etc—elevated the crisp melody and Tomberlin’s melancholic vocals. When describing the song's meaning to Stereogum, she explains, “Reflecting on moments and fragmented memories and trying to put sense to it.” I understand what she means because her concert left me thinking about my past, present, and even my future.

Next to me was an older man, maybe 70 or so, vibrantly enjoying the music, and Tomberlin noticed. Mid-performance, she asked him his name and mentioned she had seen him at a previous show. Further into this intimate set, Tomberlin expressed her stage-fright nerves and the man offered support and told her, “Sarah Beth, you have grown so much as an artist over the years.” The kindness of this interaction wraps up exactly how the show felt—heartwarming, personal, and refreshing.

I left the show in awe of the talented singer/songwriter and her band, but also thinking, “I hope in five decades I am still going to and enjoying shows.” –– Kelly Schwint

Yeule at Webster Hall (New York, NY)
October 15, 2023

Photo by Charlie Gross

Like many of us, nonbinary Singaporean songwriter, producer and 'Cyborg Entity' yeule (aka Nat Ćmiel)—who played Webster Hall with support from the amazing SASAMI—is intimately intertwined with the digital realm, but is able to find creative inspiration in its vast landscape. Their music is a captivating blend of cathartic punk and ethereal electronics, echoing influences from math rock to post pop.

Yeule's compositions are an emotional voyage, delving deep into personal struggles and discomfort, drawing from readings of cybernetic theory by Donna Haraway and a "post human" world. Through their music and live performance, Yeule embraces the healing process, addressing emotional wounds, and brings to light the importance of love, care, and self-discovery.

In Yeule's own words: "I've learned a lot more about the person I am. I need to surround myself with people who love me. I need to be around people who are good for me. I need to show a bit of tend and care to what was broken in here. I think a lot of that has to do with being able to deal with a lot of trauma that I've been repressing, and I think softscars was also like trauma processing for me. There were a lot of memories forgotten or like things that I didn't want to face or revelations of self that I never thought I would feel.

I just try not to get so low to that point of total darkness because at that point, you can't even write music, or do anything creative. My teenage years were very much like that. And I think maybe that's also why I revisited the music I was listening to at the time — it's like how smells remind you of things, music reminds me of things too." –– Nick Greto

Tomberlin at Blue Note (New York, NY)
October 22, 2023

While fans waited outside the Blue Note for the Dinner Party edition of Robert Glasper’s “Robtober,” a woman walked by, spotted the block-long line, and blurted in disbelief: “What’s this for?!”

And then she peered inside to see the name of the headliner: “Oh. Robert Glasper with Dinner Party. THAT makes sense.”

“That makes sense” was exactly the sentiment we felt watching the show. The way the musicians of Dinner Party coalesce—laid back yet powerful through and through—can’t be adequately expressed in words.

Through music, the group also exemplified what real community looks like—collaborative and honoring, joined at different points in the set by Amber Navran of Moonchild and gallant. The stage, with these voices, felt as though it extended to every wall, enveloping the room.

Their instruments were in constant conversation, sounds overlapping and then retreating. Listening to Terrace Martin's sax solo was equally as delightful, for example, as watching Kamasi Washington silently listen along, his head bowed. –– Cassie Archdeacon

Shakey Graves at Roadrunner (Boston, MA)
November 14, 2023

Photograph of singer-songwriter Shakey Graves playing guitar in a low-lit concert venue with purple backlighting.

One of the first shows I covered for Sounds of Saving was Shakey Graves at Webster Hall, just a few months after he headlined my first post-Covid show in Greenfield, MA. I wrote: “I think I’m going to keep taking life advice from Shakey Graves, because if doing dumb shit means I’m driving alone to Massachusetts to see one of my favorite artists perform and chatting with every stranger I meet, or that I’m covering his show by myself on a Monday night during my college finals week, I guess I love doing dumb shit.” I can proudly say I’ve continued to do dumb shit, like cover his show on a Tuesday night even though I’m newly in grad school and had class at 9am the next morning. Why do I keep doing this? Because Shakey Graves’ shows remind me why I love live music. I feel invigorated by his insane guitar strumming, the candor in the rasp of his voice––which somehow always sounds even better live than recorded, just because you know he’s having fun with it––and the freeing stomping and hollering that somehow overtakes my body. He released his newest album, Movie of the Week, in September, and according to last.fm, I’ve already streamed the album's six minute closer, “Heartstopper,” 22 times. If you take one thing from this blurb, just go see Shakey Graves. You won’t regret it. –– Alyssa Goldberg

Nai Palm at Baby’s All Right (Brooklyn, NY)
October 28, 2023

It’s a cliché to call a performance spellbinding but an apt one for an intimate Nai Palm show. Palm played a late night set last night at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right and she had the audience so rapt she seemed to ask for more commotion and noise while she performed.

In between her gorgeous songs Nai chatted about her inspirations. She talked about the Rose of Jericho, a plant that can go without water for years and appear dead but be resurrected with a few drops of water. She compared this to the human spirit which can seem dormant until it gets a small taste of love. She shared how she deals with bad mental states by trying to focus on small joys—like how when she’s really depressed she watches The Temptations “My Girl” performance on repeat and it reliably brings her a little bit back.

A favorite SoS artist, Nai Palm has openly discussed details of her childhood in Australia, such as losing her mother to cancer and then her father in a fire. She spent time in foster care and was later homeless for a bit and then herself survived cancer. She has also talked about the joys of her past and the music she was always surrounded by in her home, her love of wild animals and the meaning of her singular fashion and adornment.

She told Guardian that recently “I had lost a breast and then I lost my bird…[but] loss is not a new thing to me; I’m an orphan and I’ve experienced a lot of death in my life. It’s a blessing to have the arts as a vehicle to process it. Sometimes the only thing that can really heal you is music.” –– Charlie Gross

Slaughter Beach, Dog at Roadrunner (Boston, MA)
November 16, 2023

Stepping into a Slaughter Beach, Dog show––which I've now done twice in two different cities, feels weird. I never necessarily "found" the band––as a fan of Modern Baseball, it was the natural next step to support Jake Ewald's solo project after the band's hiatus. At their show at Racket (West Village, NYC) in January, I overheard some teenagers talking about how they found Modern Baseball through Slaughter Beach, Dog, and that they wanted to be in the front row to catch a kiss (thank you, Matty Healy). I realized these kids were from a totally different generation––not there for midwest emo nostalgia but for a night of indie folk music, and per their latest album, crying, laughing, waving, smiling, and maybe some singing and dancing too. Their shows are an oasis of peace, nonetheless, predictable but in a way that brings comfort, like visiting an old friend.

On writing their latest album, Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling, Ewald told Paste Magazine: “It used to feel like I was collecting these actual, almost tangible, artifacts of a specific type of person or a specific thing that a person said, or the way that somebody looked at somebody else. But now, it feels more like I’m logging these complicated emotions and nuanced feelings that I bump up against in daily life—whether they’re my own or my partner’s or my family’s or my neighbors or, even, somebody I’ve seen in movies."

Amyl and The Sniffers at Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA)
November 3, 2023

Music heals. Ask anyone who brought and absorbed the frantic energy at the Friday night Amyl and The Sniffers show at Philly’s Union Transfer. Rage, punk riffs, bubbling joy were all on full display at a show that brings together adoring fans and performer in an utterly real, physical and refreshing way.

Amy sings in “Freaks to the Front”:
“Get on my level
Or get out of my way
Don't bloody touch me
Give me some space
I'm short, I'm shy, I'm fucked up
I'm bloody ugly
Get out of my way
Don't bloody touch me
Freaks to the freaks to the freaks
To the freaks to the front
If they don't like you as you are
Just ignore the cunt”

As described by Pitchfork: “[Amy’s] lyrics pull us into her endlessly vacillating mind, made all the more relatable for its many contradictions. She wants love but doesn't need anything from anyone. She wants to smash capitalism but isn't quite sure she cares enough to pull down the hammer. Sweaty and surrounded in the pit, she's just moshing on her own.” –– Charlie Gross