Friday, February 28, 2014

Jillette Johnson at the Bowery Ballroom

Jillette Johnson began taking piano lessons at age six and began songwriting at age eight in her small hometown of Pound Ridge, New York. She started playing live venues in New York City at the age of 12. The musician moved to New York City at 18, and began performing at Lower East Side and Brooklyn music clubs. She auditioned for the first season of The Voice, but three days before her flight to Los Angeles chose not to pursue this track, believing she had to be true to her own music trajectory. Johnson released her five-song debut EP, Whiskey & Frosting, in 2012. Her debut album, Water in a Whale, was released in June 2013.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight opening for Wakey! Wakey!, Johnson had musicians backing her, but her own talent commanded the bulk of the attention. Johnson showed herself to be a gifted singer-songwriter, demonstrating deft classical musicianship, warm and even haunting melodies, and poetic lyrics that induced sweet and melancholy images. Often she looked down at her fingers quickly gliding across her keyboard, then lifted her head, eyes closed, and belted out passionate, aching lyrics. A highlight of tonight's performance was "Cameron," a song that told of a transgendered teen struggling to be genuine and accepted. Yet it was this same collection of pensive, surging, piano-driven pop songs tonight that showcased that she is also a vocal powerhouse. Her colossal singing was the summit of her many talents and lit a bonfire. Particularly when the musical arrangements turned soft and sparse, her soaring voice hit the ceiling and then filled the room with embers. Today's music scene has no shortage of female singer-songwriters, but Jillette Johnson is special.

Visit Jillette Johnson at