WARNING – There might be spoilers…
On Saturday 23rd January 2021 Juliana Hatfield broadcast a live solo session on the Internet. This is not the first time she has done this; in December she played the whole of her album ‘Become What You Are’. She is also not the first musician to have played to a virtual audience, but on Saturday it became clear that these Internet shows take us to places that a previously normal band/venue/stage/audience set up cannot deliver.
Also, it might be worth explaining this early on, the thing with JH albums, is that when you get a new JH LP, what follows is playing it to absolute death over and over again for months on end at the expense of everything else until it’s burned into your brain. The new LP is played to the point that if you should walk into a shop or any other music playing establishment (remember doing that) and they are not playing the new JH album…then it seems odd, other sounds become an intrusion. Likewise radio. Obviously one of the consequences of this compulsive listening strategy means that each album tends to sum up a period of your life. The songs are hard wired to memory, place, people, events and things, but more than that they are somehow hard wired to you.
On Saturday, Juliana sat down to play through her third solo album ‘Bed’ originally released in 1998. An LP with more of a stripped back sound than its predecessor ‘Only Everything’, which probably made it a good choice to play in this, the ultimate of stripped down circumstances. Just Juliana and an acoustic guitar.
Internet shows like this can deliver those little things that are often lost or inaudible at a traditional show; guitar tuning, commentary and asides that an audience is not always privy to or the words get lost in the space between the artist and PA system. What artists maybe don’t realise is that the audience knows pretty well how you sound singing, but we also love to learn how you talk, and what do you say?
So what did we learn on Saturday?
‘Did I forget anything?…I’m famously forgetful. I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached to my body’ (tunes guitar)
Between songs, Juliana sipped from a ‘Polar’ spritzer, probably pomegranate flavour. Polar is a drinks company based in Worcester Mass. It’s local-ish.
Later, we are introduced to her dog who has been laying down behind for most of the set, but then wanders into frame – apparently looking for her ball “Charlie your ball is not there, your ball is gone…” Juliana coos.
It was also great to get such an interesting close up visual on Juliana’s playing, which is fantastic to see – the chords, the slides, the changes as well as the picking and rhythm work. She’s amazing.
Towards the end comes Juliana’s main commentary for the evening and includes both words about the songs, and the situation;
“I’m so glad that this is happening and we’re able to do this together, sort of together… “virtually together”… what I mean is…what a great thing that we can do this while we’re not able to … in my case play shows and in your case attend shows. You know sometimes I bitch and moan about the internet and how much I hate it, but at times like this I really appreciate that it is able to make this happen, and we can somehow share in the musical experience (takes a slug of the Polar spritzer). It’s a little weird but, then again I like having a little distance between me and people in general…in my life…I think boundaries are healthy, boundaries should never be breached or let down…not let down that’s the wrong word….boundaries should always be there. What’s that saying, ‘Good walls make good neighbours’? Oh and by the way FYI, I wanna keep doing these, playing albums maybe once a month and I think the next one I’m going to do is ‘Only Everything’…possibly with an electric guitar so I can do some of the bendy stuff…but I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m still in the middle of Bed…”
Back to work. Afterwards Juliana plays an extra song ‘Staying In’ from her 2018 album Weird.
‘Since we’re still dealing with social distancing, and masking and things being shut down, I thought that ‘Staying In’ was a good song for now. For this era of staying in…’
The chat bar lights up all the way through; this is someone’s favourite song, this one reminds them of a time in the 1990s, and weren’t the 90s great? There was a lot of that. After her set Juliana offers to take a few questions, and while everyone typed in ‘Are you still friends with Evan Dando?’ and ‘When is your new LP coming out?’ and ‘Are you going to cover REM? Patti Smith? Nirvana? U2?’, and ‘We love you’, Juliana remembers her new guitar case…
“Oh wait I have to show you the needlepoint guitar case my Mom made… “ She steps over the stand and the mic leads, and the dog to reach out of shot for the case before bringing it back over in view of the camera. It is the finest guitarcase ever, that is some serious needle-point going on there. Well done Mom.
The ‘unplugged’ format is not new, but out of the glare of TV lights and the necessity to pander to a broad appeal for ratings, these personal, intimate renderings have their own advantages. We hope that even after restrictions are lifted, artists might still be tempted to check in on us this way. That’s kind of how it felt, it wasn’t just about the songs, but a very welcome ‘checking in’, making sure we’re all ok.
This show was run on a ‘donate what you can’ basis, with no set ticket price, and if you want to catch up with the video, remember that the donate button is still active. With the absence of live shows, this means at least some income to the artist, so please do donate via Juliana’s Ye Olde Records paypal HERE.
You can check out everything else Juliana at www.julianahatfield.com
Two years ago, outside a venue in Nottingham and mid-tour, Juliana spoke to us for an interview that we published in Blogzine 1, but ….Blogzine 1 is now sold out. It was really good. Doh!