Monday, 12 May 2008

Kimya Dawson, Night & Day, Sunday 11th May 2008

In the two or three years since I last saw Kimya Dawson, a lot has changed. As she constantly reminds us, Dawson’s become a ‘mommy’ to daughter Panda, who appears onstage briefly, gurgling an accompaniment to Dawson’s lullabies. Secondly, the popularity of this year’s hit indie film Juno, for which she provided the soundtrack, means she’s been catapulted from the ramshackle, informal Star & Garter (post-gig festivities involved sitting on the floor in a circle playing spin the bottle until grumpy proprietors finally stopped the curfew-breaking fun) into a tightly organised, all ages show. The Night & Day sold out well in advance to a new generation of fans who were young enough to have missed Dawson first time round with her old band, the Moldy Peaches.

Like the gutsy protagonist of Juno, it’s easy to see why Dawson appeals to the teenage girls who largely make up the crowd. Whoever chose the stage lighting for Dawson may have given her a soft pink glow - Dawson remarks that it’s the “pinkest she’s ever been” - but Dawson’s songs aren’t the typically fluffy ballads of female singer-songwriters. With her almost perpetually lowered eyelashes and shy demeanour, Dawson exudes something that makes her a natural born consoler. At thirty six, still singing crouched in close to the microphone, intimating in a vulnerably cracked Yankee whisper something that’s deep inside us all, somewhere, she’s comforting herself as much as she is us.

Dawson’s subject matter is recognisably adolescent - sleepovers, skewed romanticism, the ‘Chemistry’ of love affairs, and climbing trees in ‘Henry Kelly’ - but it retains an edge over mere childish whimsy, sounding old and young, wise and serious and innocent at the same time in that funny way children can: ‘The cum on your face is really just mayonnaise’.