San Francisco Chronicle features Noe
We’re so grateful to Anrew Gilbert for helping to spread the word about our show tomorrow night at the Freight and Salvage. Andy’s feature is now live on SF Gate. Thank you, Andrew!
SINGER / SONGWRITER NOE VENABLE TUNES IN, VENTURES OUT
By Andrew Gilbert
The primal encounter lasted only a few seconds, but it changed the course of Noe Venable’s life. Returning to her Oakland hills home in the wee hours after a gig, the singer/songwriter was lifting her guitar from her car’s backseat when a movement in the shadows caught her eye.
“I looked up and saw this huge deer bathed in blue light from a streetlamp, with antlers as big as my arms could reach,” she recalled in a recent phone conversation from her Brooklyn apartment. “It was an otherworldly vision. I was staring right into his eyes and felt like I was in the presence of royalty. As he passed into a space between two houses it became clear he was old and limping and I wondered where could he go.”
The arresting image of nature in retreat from urbanity lodged deep in Venable’s imagination, sparking a quest that eventually led her to trade her touring career for a stint at Harvard Divinity School.
Focusing on folklore and mythology, she delved into ancient stories and traditions and gradually created the verdant body of songs on her new album “Cascadia.” After years away from performing, Venable returns to the Bay Area to celebrate the release of her first new album in seven years Thursday at Freight & Salvage with New York percussionist Mathias Kunzli, bassist Todd Sickafoose, violinist Alan Lin and Odessa Chen on harmony vocals. (Chen is also playing a brief opening set.)
As crystalline as ever, Venable’s voice is an extraordinary instrument, and her songs are suffused with longing and wonder and an almost desperate desire to bridge the divide between human consciousness and the universe, what she describes in the opening track “Lights and Fences” as “the agony of separation.”
In her own life, she’s sought to create a rarefied realm for contemplation and creativity. Raised in San Francisco, she started releasing self-produced albums in the late 1990s, and first gained widespread attention with her fourth CD, 2002’s electro-folk project “Boots.” Her mystical bent moved to the foreground on 2003’s “The World Is Bound By Secret Knots,” which brought Venable into the limelight as an opening act on national tours with artists such as Robyn Hitchcock, Ani DiFranco and They Might Be Giants.
“That was very fulfilling, but I came to see that the touring life wasn’t for me,” says Venable, making it clear that Thursday’s show doesn’t mark her return as a regular performer. “I’m someone who needs a hearth to tend. My ideal way to be an artist is to live a relatively solitary life that allows me a lot of space to tune in to the things I need to tune in to, and to venture out every few years.”
If you go Noe Venable: 8 p.m. Thursday. $17-$19. Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 644-2020.