By Garrett Frambach
Photos by Mary Mathis
After selling out Gabe’s Iowa City in advance and upgrading to a larger venue, Julien Baker played to a packed Englert Theatre as one of the final performances of Mission Creek Festival’s Friday night lineup. Following supporting sets from Squirrel Flower and Karen Meat, the 22-year old Memphis native took the stage just after 10:30 pm, opening with the title track from her 2017 album Turn Out the Lights, before transitioning into the album’s first single “Appointments.” Baker alternated between her two guitars and a keyboard, with her only accompaniment throughout being violinist Camille Faulkner, which proved to be more than enough to captivate her audience over the course of her hour on stage.
Despite her soft-spoken stage presence, Baker let her poignant songs and powerful vocals speak for her as she played through tracks from both of her studio albums. She bantered with the audience during a series of technical difficulties that caused her to skip over fan favorite “Sprained Ankle.” Baker was endearing even while struggling with a broken loop pedal, later playing an impromptu cover of Manchester Orchestra’s “100 Dollars,” which she claimed to play when nervous. Towards the end of the evening she quietly thanked the audience once again, before closing out her set with “Go Home” and “Something.”
Julien Baker had a brilliant, captivating energy about her that left her audience awestruck and eager for an encore. Although it never came, Iowa City is undoubtedly a better place for having Julien Baker grace the stage.