SAN FRANCISCO — Midwest emo icon Mike Kinsella brought his deepest feelings and emotions to the Rickshaw Stop with his solo project Owen on Wednesday.
One of the most influential names in the indie folk and emo scene, Mike Kinsella is the drummer for Cap’n Jazz, but is better known as the frontman of emo revival rockers American Football.
Wednesday, he presented his more reserved, intimate side as Owen. The project was developed in parallel with American Football. Kinsella develops in his music in different personalities and unique emotional states, and Owen gave him the opportunity to dig even deeper. These few solo shows are taking place between An American Football tour in Southern California and the East Coast.
Having a wide repertoire of albums from which to choose, Kinsella’s set ranged from more his two decades as a musician. Fans were hushed, attentive and immersed in arpeggios and melodies. He began by popping the seal on a can of beer, checking his phone, saying hello to the crowd and kicking in to “Lovers Come and Go,” off his most recent album, 2016’s The King of Whys.
“Love is Not Enough,” off 2013’s L’Ami du Peuple, came next. The setlist also included “The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi,” and American Football’s “Home is Where the Haunt Is.”
Kinsella put as much effort into a side project show as his other bands, even if it was just him, a guitar and a chair in the middle of the stage. His songs ranged from Bon Iver-type folk, to passages where open tunings and his voice converged in a melody that generates an atmosphere. Although it sounded so different, the music shared so many of the same qualities as emo.
Clearly, Owen is not American Football. Fans seemed to understand they witnessed a much more intimate and personal work.
“I can say whatever I want as Owen, I can express all the aspects of my personality,” Kinsella said. “I can be crude or funny or sad or mean or whatever. It’s my personal thing.”
Singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson opened the show with a timid “hello.” Stevenson’s set was heavily folk-tinged, with songs composed of heavy-hearted melodies and anxious lyricism. They were about death and regrets. She would introduce each song with it’s topic so there would be no confusion going forward.
“This song is about dying; well about thinking too much about dying,” she would say; or, “this song is about depression.”
Follow photographer Joaquin Cabello at Instagram.com/joaquinxcabello.