Faye Webster wants her listeners to get the joke. Give her music a casual listen, and you might miss the punchline. There’s a type of humor here that can be found deep beneath the surface in the melancholy waltz’s of her music. Yet, she never takes herself too seriously. Like Courtney Barnett, there’s a smirk to be found in the deepest lines of her songs, showing a playful side amid all the serious feelings. Like adding “lol” to the end of the most serious text you’ll ever send someone.
There’s an underlying sense of humor in her performances too. Although her abbreviated headlining festival set in Winnipeg this summer might have glossed over a bit of that, some of tonight’s humor shone through in the opening act, Upchuck. This punk band from Atlanta is in-your-face, with wild antics like vocalist KT spitting water into the front row—loud, proud, and angry, they’re everything a great punk band should be, and everything Faye Webster is not. But oddly enough, the audience was totally into it. They embraced the complete opposite sound, starting a mini mosh pit near the front, recording songs on their phones, and headbanging along. Webster, being buds with the band, even hopped in on bass for a few of their tracks.
Anyone who’s been called an “old soul” before the age of 24, or anyone who at one point had made being awkward a personality trait will appreciate Faye Webster’s music. She’s folk-pop for people who want to be in bed by 9. (Even though Webster herself didn’t start until after 9.) If smoky lounges were still in our neighborhoods, her music would be their perfect fit. But in today’s world, her music finds solace in messy, sunset lamp lit bedrooms filled with incense smoke instead.
Songwriting has always been rooted in feeling, and Webster is one of the few artists out there who can find ways to write songs about feelings that are still without description. In “Suite: Jonny” she finds her thoughts drawn back to an old love who perhaps never cared for her, singing “I want to be happy. Find a man with an old name just like me. And get over how my dog is my best friend, and he doesn’t even know what my name is.” Many folks in the audience really sang that line.
Some of Webster’s songs are also locked in repetition. In “Lifetime” she spends much of the time slowly chanting “in a lifetime” as if she is trying to get the words to sound different, or as if she is trying to get the relationship in the song to be different. She does the same in “Right Side of My Neck”, singing “The right side of my neck still smells like you.” in almost that same, meditative repetition. Each time, a small variation on the pedal steel phrases or guitar notes are played as markers to ensure we’re not stuck on a broken record. The listener gets the message after the first couple lines, but the song keeps going until it’s funny. It works like a catchphrase from a friend that grows on you. At first excessive, nearing irritation, yet somehow, funnier each time until it somehow finds it’s way into your own vocabulary.
The looping lines in some of these songs also seem to be part of the joke if you listen closely, even if it’s a joke that only Webster finds funny. But It’s clear that the sold out audience was in on the joke long before she came to town. They wore their halloween costumes to the show, headbanged to the opening punk band, and slowdanced to Webster’s quirky ballads. Webster didn’t speak to the crowd often, rolling through her short set of 14 songs that took just over an hour. “We’re going to play a new one.” she said, and then realizing she accidentally skipped ahead in the setlist. “Oh, just kidding actually. This is a song from Pokemon.” Then performing an instrumental cover of Eterna City. An odd choice, yet somehow extremely fitting.
That’s part of Faye Webster’s charm, after all. Her music has this folk and western vibe, yet it’s way beyond the usual expectations of those genres. It’s unique without going overboard on the weirdness, striking this balance of being substantial and funny all at once. That’s why a lot of her fans feel like they’ve found a friend in Faye Webster, and it’s why her music will keep hitting home for years to come.
- But Not Kiss
- Better Distractions
- Kind Of
- Right Side of My Neck
- A Dream With a Baseball Player
- I Know I’m Funny haha
- Suite: Jonny
- Eterna City (Pokémon cover)
- Wilco Type Beat
- In a Good Way
- Feeling Good Today