On Oct. 14, 2023, Eliza McLamb took the stage at Big Night Live in Boston, opening for Vacations and Last Dinosaur on their joint tour, TOURZILLA. McLamb, an indie singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, opened for the first half of the tour, concentrated mostly in the Midwest and East Coast.
I first heard McLamb’s music during the depths of the spring of 2020, when I, like the rest of the world, was hopelessly addicted to TikTok. I listened to her music for a few months before being consumed by my impending first year of college. I was reintroduced to her music this past summer, when I obsessively listened to the podcast “Binchtopia,” which she hosts with her friend Julia Hava.
McLamb began the night with “Pulp,” a song from her second EP “Salt Circle,” which was released on Dec. 2, 2022. I wish I could say that I was dutifully listening to McLamb perform this song. But, unfortunately, at that exact moment I was screaming at the steering wheel of my car while trying to find cheap parking in the periphery of TD Garden alongside hundreds of Bruins fans. I ended up paying $60 (three times the price of my concert ticket) for parking, as if driving in Boston and being surrounded by the worst fans in the NHL wasn’t torture enough.
But, miraculously, I was able to get inside the venue right before McLamb played her second song of the night, “Glitter.” McLamb’s performance, specifically her vocal skill and confidence, was phenomenal, bringing to life the rock undertones of the song, which was released on Sept. 23, 2023.
Her next song, “Anything You Want,” was the only song on the setlist that I did not know. Being released on Oct. 25, the song was beautifully composed with a slightly jazzy bounce that accentuated McLamb’s smooth voice. Watching her perform it further cemented my excitement for her forthcoming album, which she said was coming out “sometime in January.”
My favorite song of the night was “Salt Circle.” Yes, to some extent this is biased as it is my favorite of her songs. Yet, this particular song made her talent as a singer and her authenticity as a performer abundantly clear. She prefaced the song by saying, “Is anyone here with their best friend? This song is for you.” She proceeded to give the audience a heartfelt performance with orange and pink lights shining behind her, giving a new ethereal air to the lyric “When we take on new bodies I will scour the earth to find you again.” The performance even prompted the two 60-year old men behind me to stop talking at an obnoxious volume about the available selection of beer, watch McLamb in silence, and then remark, “Wow, she is really good.”
She ended the concert with “Mythologize Me,” an upbeat indie-rock anthem that was released on Aug. 9, 2023. With blue lights flashing behind her, she sent the audience off with high-energy as they waited for Last Dinosaurs and Vacations performances later that night.
After she left the stage, I walked aimlessly around the venue for ten minutes, contemplating whether I wanted to stay for the main acts and try to figure out where McLamb’s merch table was. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw McLamb standing at the edge of the bar talking to an eager fan. I awkwardly loitered next to them, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, when McLamb turned to ask me how I was doing. I asked if there was anywhere I could buy some of her merch. (Note to reader: one of the best ways to support smaller artists is to buy their merch) She said that she was trying to figure out where to set up her table, and that she would let me know in a few minutes before trying to find a venue manager.
As she sold me and a handful of teenage girls “Salt Circle” t-shirts out of a bag in a neglected corner of the venue, I was aware of this bizarre threshold I had transcended as a fan. I was standing in front of someone who had, less than half an hour ago, been performing to a venue of over hundred people. More so than that, I was having a conversation with someone who’s voice I have listened to, via both podcast and music, almost every day for the past few months. It felt incredibly intimate. Of course, such intimacy between artist and fan is inherently one-sided. Yet, when she handed me a t-shirt out of a massive plastic bag, looked me in the eye with an acknowledgment of comedic struggle, and thanked me for coming to her show, it felt like I was not just another streaming number to an artist I admire. Perhaps this is the beauty of supporting smaller musicians.
While it is evident that I bought the concert tickets solely to see McLamb, this was not the norm for this Big Night Live crowd. After my interaction with McLamb, I, for ten minutes, stood in the pit waiting for the Last Dinosaurs set before deciding that I was not in the mood to stand around men with mustaches and excessive B.O. Or, rather, I was in the mood to be in my bed watching The O.C.
I want to admit that it is somewhat unorthodox to write a review solely about an opening act. In “you are not supposed to look at people on the subway,” a piece she wrote for her personal SubStack, McLamb reflected on the experience of performing in front of crowds who tend to be less familiar with her music: “I think of myself a jazz singer in a bustling club, singing sweet nothings for nobody, often having my best vocal performances when no one is invested enough to tell. I love to feel that hot light on my face, on the stage, and be invisible all at once. I am here with everyone, I am singing, it matters to me more than anything in the world and to someone else not at all. Which is the whole mess of life, as it serves me best to think of it.”
I firmly believe that McLamb deserves the acclaim I am giving her. I also believe that opening acts and smaller artists alike deserve more recognition than they are often given. One way to support McLamb is by listening to her single coming out on Oct. 25 and her album coming out next January.