Half Waif  Photo by Brian Vu

A new-to-me artist who performs under the name Half Waif is opening for Calexico and Iron & Wine at an upcoming State Theatre show. I will rave about her transfixing music in a bit, but first want to touch on a that’s topic near and dear to my heart: opening acts.

With very few exceptions, every nationally touring artist you love has been an opening act. Sometimes it’s early on in their careers, other times it’s when they’re well established and get invited to tour with another act as the opener, like when Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett opened for The National at Thompson’s Point last summer.

The first time I saw Indigo Girls was when they opened for R.E.M. way back in 1989. Then there was the time Lucius, in my opinion, stole the show from headliners Tegan and Sara at the State Theatre in 2013. I also can’t forget the night Regina Spektor opened for Dresden Dolls at Space Gallery in 2005, or when Brandi Carlile opened for Indigo Girls when they played outside at L.L. Bean in August of 2008.

The point is this: Whenever possible, always try to be on time for the opening act. Sometimes life – and parking struggles – get in the way, but if you can get to the venue on time, you just might discover your next favorite band. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve become an on-the-spot mega fan of an artist previously unknown to me because they opened a show. Once I’m hooked, I’m usually hooked for life, and isn’t the voyage of discovery what it’s all about?

But if I haven’t convinced you, at the very least, show the opening act some respect by not loudly talking over their set.

Now then, onto the spellbinding opening act for the Iron & Wine and Calexico show. Nandi Rose, originally from Williamstown, Massachusetts, and a current resident of New York’s Hudson Valley, has been writing and recording under the name Half Waif for more than eight years. She grew up with Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Lorenna McKennit and traditional Indian bhajans (religious songs of praise) in her ears. As Half Waif, she’s released two EPs and three albums, the most recent of which is 2018’s “Lavender.”

Listening to it over the past week has been like sinking into and floating just above an abyss of all-consuming meditative sounds. With sculpted storytelling and vocal sorcery making their way through my central nervous system, all 12 tracks are master classes in what Rose refers to as “mood ring pop.” Synths coalesce with other sounds, with one foot in experimental electronica and the other in imaginative, emotional songwriting, all held together by gorgeous, sublime vocals. “Lavender Burning,”Lilac House” and “Leveler” are three examples of this artist’s brilliance.

Half Waif just announced that her new album, “The Caretaker,” will be out on March 27, and the lead single “Ordinary Talk” was just released. Fingers crossed she’ll play it and other new ones at the Portland show where she’ll be performing as a three-piece act. But either way, do yourself a massive favor and get to the State by 8 p.m. You don’t want to miss Half Waif.

Calexico and Iron & Wine with Half Waif
8 p.m. Feb. 4. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $40 in advance, $45 day of show. statetheatreportland.com


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