Not too far from her Amherst roots, Dar Williams must have felt right at home among this elite New England crowd. Too bad the size of said crowd was so pathetic. 150 people sat scattered around an auditorium built for 1000, and were quiet enough that you’d hardly notice they were there.
Opener Stephen Fiore gave it the old college try though (pun intended), and mildly entertained the audience with his awkward-guy-at-the-dance persona. He sang about - what else - lost love, backed only by his guitar as his pleasantly lazy voice wafted through the auditorium. Introducing the songs with self-deprecating banter, he scored crowd points by talking about the inspirations behind songs about sharing milkshakes and seeing himself from an ex-girlfriend’s eyes.
To the surprise of anyone who had seen the cluttered stage in the campus’ newspaper advertisement, Dar Williams came out alone. From western Massachusetts, and she looks the part. The spitting image of hippiedom, her flowing hair matched her flowing skirt and, in case you didn’t get the point, she spent her first five minutes talking about hippies. And talking to the moon. As she drawled about everything from to corporatization of water to the Milgrim experiments (wikipedia it) the audience politely laughed along but seemed impatient for the next song.
For those unfamiliar with Williams, her voice can be a little jarring. Lilting but bold, it takes a while to figure out if she’s even in tune. As she sang about witch hunts and rain, each song got a cheer as the rapt audience recognized another favorite. Her dynamic guitar playing gave some structure to the wandering narratives, whether she was performing a crowd favorite (“Christians and Pagans”) or a Hedwig and the Angry Inch cover (“Midnight Radio”). One of the new faces of folk, Williams keeps her cult following riveted to each hippie tale and may just hit the mainstream someday.