WASHINGTON, April 23, 2015 – The last time Julia Weldon appeared in the D.C. Metro Area was when she added her talents to the “D.C. Pride” event in the summer of 2013. It was an all-day festival that involved, among other special effects, three performance stages.
Since the festival was held outdoors, Weldon brought an entire band with her to fill the summer afternoon air with music in an eventful set that showed off the way her songs could be molded into something with more of an indie rock vibe. Intriguingly, her recent return visit to the DMV* at Arlington’s Iota Club was a much different affair from that previous show in 2013..
The aesthetic of a show staged in a more intimate space like Iota is obviously going to be very different from that of an outdoor music bash. As much as Julia Weldon enjoys performing with a backing band, the atmosphere of a venue like the Iota Club seems to have felt more at home for her. Instead of trying to belt out her songs in an outdoor festival with all its acoustical imperfections, performing inside an intimate setting like Iota allowed her to focus more closely on the personal nature of each song.
Another noticeable difference: at Iota she performed solo, her gear and accompanying sound limited to what she brought into Iota for herself. That didn’t really change her distinctive sound during this solo set.
But noticeably, her her attitude and projection seemed slightly different from her appearance in the larger venue. This isn’t so much a matter of an increased confidence when this artist is singing solo, since Weldon still exudes a lot of the nervous energy that surrounds many of her songs no matter what the venue. Instead, it just seems easier to say that she’s more comfortable on stage where she can clearly face and interact with her audience.
In most live performances, it’s impossible for an artist to get to know the audience while on stage without inadvertently inciting someone in the crowd to openly flail about in extreme devotion or, worse, for someone else to approach the stage to openly revile the singer. The connection that the artist makes with the audience is generally implied rather than personal. But, particularly in a smaller venue, the close proximity of the artist makes the possibility of personal connection more apparent and real.
Whatever the case or whatever the venue, however, the way Julia performs and the way she feels makes her songs come across to the audience in a very personal way. At Iota, her performance, sans big backup band, became very personal to her—something palpable that washed over the audience as well. It’s not so much that she has to project the literal meaning of her songs directly to each and every one of the people in the crowd. More important, she projects herself in such a way that the underlying emotion of each song is transported as well.
It’s an interesting dichotomy. This artist straddles the line from being upfront and personal to being almost understated in tone and projection. She’s never shy in expressing to her audience how much she enjoys the atmosphere of venues like the Iota Club. Her songs certainly reflect that attitude, and the way it all comes across works to great effect in a way that contrasts with her musical content.
A lot of what works for Julia on stage is the subtle mastery of her performance. She demonstrates her range as a vocalist in addition to her considerable skill and depth as a musician.
But at Iota, and doubtless at similar venues, she seems to let her emotions and vulnerability shine through with a kind of iridescent softness. These quieter moments in her music allow her deeply heartfelt lyricism to be completely, yet innocently, exposed to her audience.
That’s the ultimate difference between how Julia Weldon played before the audience at the Iota Club and how she performed in a big outdoor environment. Every moment she sings, every note she plays, even the times when she takes a break to converse with the audience, she is bursting at the seams to open up her inner spirit to her public.
When this artist looks the audience in the eye, she’s able to be herself to the fullest extent. This makes her set seem just as intimate as those simple, wire lights hanging over the stage imply. Shows like her recent Iota appearance are really who Julia Weldon is.