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Julie Byrne plays cozy, relaxing set at the Mill

Julie Byrne played a comfortable, soothing set at the Mill as a part of Witching Hour.

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Michael McCurdy, Arts Reporter

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Packed tightly in the dim, cozy back room of Iowa City bar and restaurant the Mill, singer/songwriter Julie Byrne delivered a comforting ensemble of acoustic melodies.

She quietly took the stage and sat down, calmly thanking the crowd for the warm welcome and noting that this was her first time in Iowa City.

Coming off her critically acclaimed second album, Not Even Happiness, Byrne has spent much of her time recently touring the United States and parts of Europe. For Byrne, the nomadic experience has been a consistent part of her life since she left home in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 18.

After an initial hiccup with the sound that Byrne referred to as “ground buzz,” or the annoyingly loud table in the far back right of the room, the audio technician appeared and quickly fixed Byrne’s concerns.

For most of her songs, she gave a brief, yet intimate commentary about their origins. In those accounts, she describes each song by starting off with the location in which she wrote it. From New York City to California and to Kansas with “Melting Grid,” she gave listeners context to her melancholic stories.

Her music has a way of paralyzing the listener in a state of relaxation. Like a mother’s reassuring voice, she opens the door to one’s internal emotions but in a comforting manner.

Byrne wove through her music as a wanderer searching for a home, a romantic wondering if she can love again, a loner welcoming privacy, and a dreamer envisioning a life of lucidity.

Among her set list, she covered “These Days,” a ballad written by Jackson Browne and first recorded in 1967 by German singer/songwriter and model Nico. She noted a particular lyric in the song that she loved, “I had a lover, I don’t think I’d risk another these days.”

She said the lyric initially spoke to her until she heard someone compare love to a perennial field of grass, infinitely coming and going. This personal, intimate interaction embodied the entire show, as Byrne’s personal lyrics and tranquil sounds peacefully flowed downstream into the mind of the listener.

 

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