Sarah Jaffe marched out with the members of her band to wire up her guitar, tap-test pedals with her shiny gold moon boots (not Moon BootsTM) and chat with the sound guy. House music distracted the low key audience and people grabbed a drink. Rough Trade NYC is a fairly small Russian nesting doll venue of black boxes. There’s no hiding and no room for pretense, almost literally. If Saturday night was anything, it was set by the tone of watching Jaffe setup and tear down her own instruments: real.

Jaffe has a voice like the rough side of a nail file sliding across velvet, and she’s so lyrically attuned to the voices in her own head that seeing her live feels like sharing a bottle of merlot with her. (“I wish I was a little more delicate” she nearly pleads over and over in the gorgeous song “Clementine”). I became an instant fan when her second LP The Body Wins came out in 2012, but Saturday was my first time catching her live set. Everything that’s great about her records translated ten times better in the room, as I’ve found is usually the case for Texas bred singer-songwriters. Her lyrics are as unpretentious as her stage entrance, cutting directly to deep emotion but with enough detachment to feel like you’re stargazing unfathomable galaxies next to an astronomer. Her band was fantastic, a solid trio of Texas workhorse musicians (Robert Sanchez, Scott Danborn, and Don Cento), and the four of them together moved through her genre-fluid catalog with an energy and tenderness only available to incredibly talented musicians.

At the end of the night she told the crowd she was going to play a song she’d heard somebody quietly request earlier. People started to cheer and she teased, “you don’t even know which one I’m going to play yet!” Someone cried out “third capo!” and she looked down at the neck of her guitar, pointed back at the astute fan and let out a surprised laugh. It was the kind of exchange you only see at a show where everybody, artist and fan alike, is truly happy to be where they are.

Photos/Write-up by: Lucciana Costa

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