Noah Gundersen brings relaxed, acoustic power to The Southern

The indie folk rock singer delivered musical enlightenment

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Noah Gundersen released his most recent album, "White Noise," in September 2017. 

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

The only mistake Noah Gundersen made during his show at The Southern Saturday night was asking the Charlottesville audience how the basketball game went earlier in the day. The crowd, still trying to forget, raffled off corky responses and obscenities directed at that school who shall not be named. Gundersen could easily hear everything the audience was saying thanks to the intimacy of The Southern and poked fun at the crowd, responding with, “You know I went to f—king Tech.”

Nothing but the guitar accompanied Gundersen on stage. He took advantage of the acoustic-filled basement venue by stepping away from the mic and speaking directly to the laid-back crowd. He wanted the audience to know exactly what kind of show this would be.

Gundersen’s musical journey met a fork in the road and took an unexpected turn when he released his most recent album, “White Noise,” back in September 2017 — unexpected for his fans, at least, who had gotten comfortable with his classic folk-Americana style.

The Seattle native had an especially unique upbringing. Gundersen is the oldest of eight siblings — five biological and three adopted. He was homeschooled by a deeply religious family and learned music by listening to obscure and very religious Bob Dylan albums like “Slow Train Coming” and “Oh Mercy.” White Noise is his first album to break away from his comfortable neo-folk style that fed off his family’s inspiration.

Gundersen’s discography can be theorized as trying to find a place of belonging. He emphasizes detachment from a place that, while once considered a home, had quickly become inhospitable to form a suitable life. Up until “White Noise,” Gundersen had been held back by his musical and family rearing. Through this album, and the sense he gave during the show, it seems like he has left that place in search of a new one where his desired musical expression will no longer be a trait — it will be a personality.

Because acoustic shows cannot give off the same indication of power that electric ones can, they require other dynamics to stick out. Gundersen’s most powerful tool on Saturday night was his voice and he showed it off right out of the gate. The first song he played was “After All (Everything All The Time),” also the first song off “White Noise.” This studio version of this tune has a powerful drum and guitar solo complemented by an electric rendering of his voice. Gundersen hit an incredible high note to close out the live tune, screaming out for about 15 seconds. If anyone was skeptical about the acoustic show prior to the opening, this song made an everlasting impression to declare this show would be special.

The cheers and applause didn’t end as Gundersen prepared to go into his next track, but they were interrupted with laughter as Gundersen began to cough up a lung. He told the audience he’d been sick for a while — but what is being sick, anyway? According to Gundersen, “Being sick is 90 percent mental, and the other part is drinking.” This satirical commentary was a common theme throughout the night which helped fill voids that a band normally would have filled.

Gundersen stuck to his word about creating a unique atmosphere for the show. He mostly played songs that were either on the new album — the tear-jerking “Fear and Loathing” — or failed to make it — “California.” How “California” didn’t make the album is baffling. This was one of the most powerful moments of the show in which Gundersen got emotional while showing off his incredible voice again.

Though he didn’t play some of his most popular songs, the crowd seemed pleased to discover new tunes and sing along to those they already dig. The mainly static crowd got grooving along when Gundersen broke out “The Sound,” one of the most upbeat songs from the new album. Gundersen created this ambiance by showing off a rocking acoustic version, screaming every word simultaneously with the crowd.

Gundersen played his heart out, something that he undoubtedly does at every show. The venue suited him perfectly, the mood suited him perfectly and the genius of the music-loving Charlottesville crowd was eager to uncover more from this singer’s fresh musical expression.

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