SALES and Hana Vu translated their chilled out music to a captivating performance that outmatched any studio recording.
SALES and Hana Vu felt like equals, something uncommon at a performance filled with obvious die-hard fans of the headliner. Their music complemented each other with moments of energizing indie rock and romantic slow jams. The sentimentality and genuinity both artists displayed made the Sinclair feel like home for a night.
Hana Vu stole the show with a confidently low-key performance that demanded attention. When she stepped out on stage with a modest attitude and an unassuming all-black ensemble, it was unclear how her bedroom pop would translate to a live setting with a sold-out crowd. The minute she and her band started playing, the modesty turned into pure excitement. Hana Vu and crew couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces as they swung their hips in sync to dreamy melodies. The bedroom pop vibe present in studio recordings transformed into something much bigger. Her music itself didn’t change much, but the way the energy and sound filled the room was completely unlike playing songs on a speaker. She exemplified why it’s so important to see an artist live. A good artist will sound just like a recording, while a great one will bring something more to the table.
A highlight of the set was her cover of ‘Dancing in the Moonlight.’ The cover has been done countless times and it wasn’t the most original thing in the world, but the band breathed new life and energy into the 70s classic. Vu also cracked jokes to the audience that landed surprisingly well, somehow understanding what it’s like to be in a Boston crowd without having ever performed here before.
“I drank Mucinex straight out of the bottle outside CVS, so I’m a little dizzy,” she said to the crowd, half-jokingly between songs. She was surprised to see the crowd laugh so much at that statement, but as someone who has been in the same situation at that Harvard Square CVS (thanks Boston winter), I’m not sure she realized how unfortunately relatable that statement was. Vu also asked the crowd if Malia Obama was around and to the disappointment of us all, she wasn’t. But if you’re reading this Malia, Hana Vu says hey.
SALES’ minimal setup created a hazy, romantic ambiance. The guitar-playing duo was joined by a drummer who only plays with them on tours. The lack of a bass seemed wrong at first, but once they started playing it all began to make sense. Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih’s atmospheric guitars complemented one another well and never got lost in each other. The rhythm was held together by the drummer and the melodies felt perfectly balanced. Shih played the role of a bassist when necessary and the minimalism generally worked well. Some songs blended together, but the monotony was broken by banter and a dedicated group of fans who sang their hearts out to nearly every song.
The stripped-down setup was perfect for a duo who calls themselves “just buddies who make music.” They took a moment to reminisce over ‘Renee,’ the first song Morgan and Shih ever wrote together, saying it was the reason they were there.
Morgan was left hanging in an awkward moment when she asked Hana Vu and her band to come on stage to dance with her and they didn’t show up, but she managed to gracefully recover with a solo interpretive dance to ‘White Jeans.’ She danced without a care in the world as the soundscape engulfed the room and transported everyone to a world of ease. It was a magical moment, a perfect transition into the last song of the night.
Bedroom pop shows run the risk of being boring, yet both acts overcame that issue easily. Hana Vu’s energy definitely surpassed SALES’ but never overpowered them. The lineup brought the energy down slowly throughout the night, leaving the crowd relaxed and ready to end their Thursday night feeling refreshed. Not every show has to leave you exhausted and sweaty. Sometimes it’s best to feel like you’ve just meditated and found clarity, and that’s exactly what this show did.
Photos by Ingrid Angulo