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Review: Sylvan Esso at Baby's All Right

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn put on a fun show in Brooklyn and… is that Bon Iver in the crowd?

Review: Sylvan Esso at Baby's All Right

When I look at the roots of Sylvan Esso, the collaboration of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, it sort of surprises me what the final product is. Both come from folk projects (Meath was in the group Mountain Man, and among other groups, Sanborn was the bassist for Megafaun). As Sylvan Esso, they produce wonderful electronic music that backs up Meath's fluttery vocals. That kind of shocks me, because I would never really expect it.

But when I dug deeper, I found that Sanborn has always had a hand in production and electronic music to some extent. When not playing with his bands, he would DJ and do other things outside the folk genre. Obviously, Meath had the same kind of affinity for this kind of music, and it's a good thing they found each other. Their collaboration is so unique and really invigorating to experience live. 

Baby's All Right, the new venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a lot of fun. It's a lot more fun when an act like Sylvan Esso is up on the stage. After a late venue shift from the previously scheduled Rough Trade NYC, the pair went on at around 11:20 or so following opening band Arp. Heath and Sanborn have so much fun on stage, and their energy is truly infectious. Sanborn laid down the production and let his wiry frame gyrate around in rhythm. Meath, wearing some platform shoes that maybe should have died in the 70s, really got down up on stage. She was bumping and grinding all over the place while also providing pitch-perfect vocals the whole night. The audience followed suit, and the sold-out crowd let loose around me with some wild dance moves.

That's what is so intriguing about this band. The production could stand alone and do fine sampling other things. But Meath's voice really brings things over the top. The beats are designed to build up these moments and put her voice in the forefront. She knocks these songs out of the park, and the folky ambivalence that her voice derives from brings something really fun to the proceedings. It's really a symbiotic relationship between production and voice, and both really bring out the best in each other.

The two are also delightful up on stage. Someone shouted a request for their new song "Coffee", Sanborn responded, "Sure. We can play that." Meath interjected, "If we're going to play this song, you guys have to really dance. I want to see those asses shaking. I'm serious!" Later on in the show, Meath complimented all of the Brooklyn hipster women in the crowd on how amazing all their hair look. "You all look like you smell really great, and I think you should all be really proud of that." Someone held up the Wu-Tang hand symbol, and she asked, "What does that mean? Are you calling us Wu-Tang right now? That's highly flattering!"

When they came out for an encore, they admitted that they had never had to do one before. Sanborn then added, "Basically, what we're trying to say is we might fuck this up pretty bad." But they slowed things down for almost an a cappella opportunity for Meath. Sylvan Esso certainly showed that they can lead a bill. After opening for the Justin Vernon project Volcano Choir back in the fall (and Bon Iver himself was in attendance near the back of the crowd, so you KNOW this was the cool place to be), Meath and Sanborn displayed the talent and charisma that should take this project on to much bigger and better things.

Check out some photos of the show below:

Sylvan Esso


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