Jenny Hval at the Mercury Lounge

Last night,'s Michael Lavorgna and I attended Jenny Hval's performance at the Mercury Lounge on Houston Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Because we first made stops to: browse LPs and chat with Daniel at Other Music, enjoy cask-conditioned ales at d.b.a., and devour some incredibly delicious pies at Rizzo's, we were primed for a memorable evening of music.

Jenny Hval did not disappoint. My only criticism of the performance was the lack of people in attendance. Jenny Hval should be seen and heard by many. Then again, to see her so close, so intimately, was a distinct joy. Hval and her small band (just guitar and drums, accompanied by synths and samples) performed expertly and faithfully to the recorded material. While there is great chemistry between the players, Hval is the focal point. She has a singular presence on stage. Movement is minimal, but purposeful and captivating, so that your eyes and ears remain locked on her.

Said Michael, "Some performers during some performances have the ability to capture the room, making everything around you recede into the distance while the music becomes your every breath . . . Live, her fragile and forceful voice is even more infectious than on record (which is pretty impressive) and watching her perform is a special and moving treat."

I agree completely. Jenny Hval is that rare artist capable of captivating while also freeing. She seems simultaneously real and unreal, foreign and familiar, unbreakable yet as frail as a sigh. She does things with her voice that shouldn't be possible. She seems in complete control, even while openly admitting the loss of control, as when she couldn't figure out where to place her iPhone or when, for just a moment, she couldn't decide which song to play next. She seems almost too controlled. She seems almost cold until she allows for a smile, at which point she seems as warm and familiar as the song she finally chooses to play.

Jenny Hval's remaining North American tour dates:

Wednesday, Oct. 2: Brooklyn, NY @ Glasslands
Thursday, Oct. 31: Hudson, NY @ Basilica Hudson
Friday, Nov. 1: Pittsburgh, PA @ Andy Warhol Museum
Tuesday, Nov. 5: Washington, DC @ DC9
Wednesday, Nov. 6: Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
Thursday, Nov. 7: Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse Music Hall

Innocence is Kinky, Hval's second full-length release under her own name, is available now. It sounds powerful, and not at all innocent, through the hi-fi.

Bill Leebens's picture

...I still have no idea how to pronounce her last name. And I grew up in Minnesota!

'val? huh-val? heeyall?

nunhgrader's picture

Sounds like a fun night - I miss d.b.a. down in NOLA! Going to sample her music now - thanks!