Finally Seeing Clearly with Kate Bollinger and Lael Neale

Written by Nyah Brizard

Photos by Kayla Mathues

One of the best parts of seeing a band perform in a smaller venue like Schubas Tavern is
the intimacy that is cultivated. A line of connection between the artists and the audience is made,
simply, through eye contact. Being able to see and hear the band so clearly allows for a more
profound human experience of unity and empathy through music. Luckily for the crowd at
Schubas on June 8th, the performers were not just there to play sweet melodies, but also to tell a
story. A story universally felt of trying to understand life with its ups and downs, twists and

Lael Neale Performing at Schubas Tavern

The first storyteller of the night was Lael Neale. Playing her 2021 album, Acquainted
with Night
, Neale quickly captivated the crowd’s attention. Her haunting vocals and mesmerizing
string instrumental tracks come together to form a siren song that captured us all. They began
the set with “Let Me Live by the Side of the Road”. Named after a poem written by Sam Walter
Foss, the song details the call to be in service to the world. The second line in the poem and one
of her lyrics says “ let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man”. In a time and
world where individuality and narcissism rules, Neale sings about being an observer, humble and
at the service to any passerby. While this may seem like an old dream made in a pre-covid/social
media/ worldwide violence universe, it’s needed more than ever now. Music can be a tool,
to bring people together and start a conversation on the complexities of being human in this day
and age. Neale closed her set with Sliding Doors & Warm Summer Roses, singing the lyric “ I’m
never lonesome”. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit I shed a tear or two at the end of her set, and
you could hardly blame me! Her captivating lyrics send healing messages of truth from
childhood to current events. Listening to her vocals mixed with soft harp chords and flute
melodies, I could close my eyes and find that “happy place” everyone has been talking about.

Kate Bollinger took the stage next to tell her own stories with her new EP, Look at it in
the Light
. While Neale’s performance felt like a call to look deeper at ourselves and lives,
Bollinger’s music felt like an open ended dream. One we all got to be a part of, and figure out
along with her. She opened with her song “Yards/Gardens”, where she sings about the anxiety to
watching everyone grow up around you, and trying to keep up. Something anyone in their 20’s
can relate too, especially in the lyric “ Please don’t leave me behind, When the world is burning
outside”. Look at it in the Light shares a sweet, whimsical, lightly psychedelic type of sound, it’s
elegant and folksy with some similarities to the band TOPS in their moody ballads and emotional
complexities. You can easily image listening to it while laying in an open field and trying to
leave your troubles behind. The ongoing pandemic has given many people different things, for
Bollinger she took the time to unpack the difficult feelings through her music. While some
feelings and questions may not have an answer yet, she allows us to see her ongoing thoughts

and see we aren’t alone in the confusion of the world right now. The audience erupted in
applause when Bollinger began to play one of her most popular songs “Who am I But
”. In her sweet bedroom pop voice she sings, “ My mind pretends not to feel this way,
But my heart knows”. Resilience is not a word I like to use often, mostly because resilient is used
as a word of praise. “It is so amazing you are so resilient” if the most common used phrase when
talking about overcoming the struggles of the world right now. But resilience comes from a need
to survive, and usually a traumatic experience. Universally right now, people are trying to be
resilient against the worlds constant tragedies. Kate Bollinger talks about the worry of being
resilient without confirmation things will get better in her song “ Lady in the Darkest hour”. The
crowd swayed in unison to the warm mellow music, silently feeling each word and
understanding it deeply.
Bollinger began to close the show by asking us if we had ever seen the 2005 Disney
Original movie Ice Princess (which, if you haven’t seen it already, is a cinematic masterpiece
about a high school figure skater). She told us that right before the show they gave her a new
mic, much like the main character in the movie gets new skates right before a big performance.
The new skates are too fresh and they ruin her performance, Kate Bollinger felt as if the mic may
have done the same to her set. She asked how the show sounded and how it was going, the whole
crowd clapped and shouted positive affirmations to the stage, confirming that not one thing had
gone wrong. In more ways that she could’ve known, her performance, much like the film, filled
us with love and determination for something better in this world. One of Bollinger’s last songs
was “Je Reverai A Toi” from her 2019 album I Don’t Wanna Lose. She sings in French, “I do
not know, I’m not sure. That when you leave. I will stay in your heart”. I hope that in our eyes,
she could see at that very moment that she will always stay in our hearts. Her words, melodies,
and kind personality struck everyone in the room with a powerful feeling of love.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.