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The Scarlet & Black

Anaïs Mitchell tells stories with songs

Bob's Concert
Jefferson Hamer, Rachel Reis and Anais Mitchell perform Tuesday night in Bob's Underground Café - Aaron Barker

Anaïs Mitchell seemed very impressed by Grinnell students last Tuesday night.

“You are life lovers,” she said to the students crowded into Bobs Underground Cafe to watch her and her band mates Rachel Ries and Jefferson Hamer, perform,. Through her set of soulful and charming songs, it became very clear that Anaïs Mitchell is also a “life lover.”

Born and raised on a farm in Montpelier, Vermont, Mitchell rarely encountered television or other forms of popular culture as a child. However, she was exposed to her father’s vast collection of literature, which sparked an early passion for prose, creative writing and song writing. These influences, in addition to her travel experiences and love for the countryside, are reflected in her music. Her songs combine folk, acoustic and alternative opera—yes opera—styles to create a sound that is entirely her own.

“She seemed kind of folksy, with a little bit of country influence,” Aurora Quinn-Elmore ’12 said.

Ries and Hamer, who both opened for Mitchell and performed with her, each had a distinct style and endearing stage presence. Ries admitted to nervousness after her first song and was quickly offered a shot of bourbon from a student.

“What did I just drink? It’s pretty bad. If I slur, it’s because my tongue is completely numb right now,” she said.
Ries’s last song was a duet with Mitchell, who took the stage solo briefly before inviting Ries and Hamer back. On her own, Mitchell set herself apart through her lyrics, many of which told stories and were political at times.

“How does the wall keep us free? The wall, the wall keeps out the enemy. Who is the enemy? The enemy is poverty,” Mitchell sang.

Her voice, which is simultaneously polished and girlish, and her captivating stage presence made the audience at Bob’s cling to each word. These fifty-plus Grinnell students were quickly engaged both by her music and by her self-deprecating interactions with them. Mitchell continued the tone set by Ries’s shot of bourbon by talking to the audience in between songs and repeatedly complimenting Grinnell.

“She had the incredible ability of having everybody in the room fall in love with her,” Matt Lewis ’14 said.
Mitchell herself claims to be “extremely socially awkward,” which perhaps is why she fit in perfectly at Grinnell. She was surprised by one Grinnell characteristic, however.

“You guys are like Bohemian. We were saying, like, ‘Where’s the campus security?’” Mitchell said.
“Roll with it,” Hamer said back.

And so the audience of Bob’s did, as they enjoyed her lyrics, her infectious energy, and above all else, her voice, late into the night.

“We would love to come back to Grinnell someday to see all of your beautiful faces again,” Mitchell said.
We would surely love to have her.

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    bastiaan weverSep 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Wish, I wish I had been there. Those moments captured above are very rare to find in the music world