Back in March Haley Henderickx put out her debut LP, I Need To Start A Garden, which appeared in the first edition of my Records Of The Year page. Seven months later the album is still sitting comfortably in my list of the 50 best albums of 2018. Despite my enjoyment of her music, last night at The Vic was my first opportunity to see her live.
It doesn’t take a lot to win over a Chicago crowd. If you play well and can get in a couple self-deprecating jokes that’s usually enough. Still, I don’t remember the last time I saw a relative unknown get on the good side of an audience so quickly. After the first song she thanked the audience and mentioned that during the tune she broke her G-string. That got a laugh so then she added, “my guitar string broke, too.” Little things like that go a long way.
She’s a relatable singer, so when she talks about her songs the audience would nod and knowingly chuckle. This was never more true than the new song “Being In A Monogamous Relationship And Trying To Decide If You Should Have A Child Or Get A Dog.” That title may not be exact, but the laughter was real. And the song is really good!
She also played a Buffy Saint-Marie cover called “Little Wheels” that I doubt 99 percent of the audience had ever heard. It’s a powerful song, and Heynderickx wanted to play it because she said it put everything she wanted to say, but couldn’t, into words.
The short (way too short) set ended with “Oom Sha La La,” with which she said she has cursed herself. It’s a pop song, to be sure, but it goes a lot deeper than anything you’ll hear on your Top 40 radio. The crowd sang along on the chorus and were blown away when she screams out the title of her record in a high, shrill voice.
After the set the people next to me, who had looked her up on their phones after I told them I was there to see her and not the headliner, turned to me and said “Oh my god we love her!” If you’re touring the country as an opener, you can’t ask for a better reaction than that.