Christopher Owens of Girls Folks It Up at the Bowery Ballroom

by Tess Duncan

Now that our tears have dried after the news of the Girls breakup, we can all welcome Christopher Owens’ solo act to our ears with love. Lysandre is a concept album with a stranger sound than that of Girls’ beloved Album and Father, Son, Holy Ghost. The 11-track LP seems even more personal, but think less of that lo-fi sound and more experimental folk. Owens is currently promoting Lysandre with a long list of international tour dates, one of which I was lucky enough to attend.

For his performance at Bowery Ballroom, Owens traded in his crop tops and muscle tees, donning a suit and tie for the evening. The crowd couldn’t have been more stoked on the show, with murmurs of “I’m gonna lose my shit” and screams of “Take your shirt off!” heard over the course of the night.  Owens remained mostly quiet, however, only stopping to speak to the crowd to thank us and say that both that night and the previous at the Bowery had been great.  No one minded the sparse speech, however, as the energy of Owens and his band was magnetic enough to keep our attention the whole time.  His (very full) backing band filled out the sound nicely, with a drummer, keyboardist, two back-up singers, guitarist, bassist, and an elderly gentleman who played saxophone, flute, and harmonica. The flute and guitar were both used for “Lysandre’s Theme,” a mystical melody woven throughout the entire record.

A stand-out song came with “Part of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue),” when Owens crooned a charming yet gloomy chorus: “I don’t think there’s a thing about you that I didn’t love/ Any time I think about you now I come undone.” He captured the crowd’s attention with the romantic title track, singing “I would love to kiss you in the moonlight/ Slowly dancing under starlight /In the summer ocean breeze,” and continuing to prove his ability to produce classic love songs without sounding cliché.  There always seems to be a darkness to Owens’ work, but he gives us a few rays of hopefulness with “Here We Go Again.” The defiantly poppy “Don’t try to get me down/ Don’t try to harsh my mellow” brings a 70’s folk vibe to mind.

Speaking of 70’s folk,  Owens borrowed from some of the great folk gods that night.  The band covered Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” and Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” inducing audible sing-a-longs from the audience. He lent his gentle vocals to “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel, an appropriate addition toward the end of the set.

Owens couldn’t leave his fans without being totes adorbs so before walking off stage he passed out white carnations to audience members. Oh Chris, you shouldn’t have.

The evening showed that Owens can make prog-folk work for him, highly owed to his amazingly original songwriting. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m craving a pizza and a bottle of wine.

You can buy Lysandre and Girls’ albums right here and check out Christopher’s upcoming tour dates on his website.

Christopher Owens performed at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC on January 21st and 22nd.

Photos via Ryan McGinley and the author herself.

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