Prior to Hackman’s appearance at EVAC, my only prior knowledge of her work had been limited to some extremely casual listening here and there over the past few years. I vividly remember a friend at college showing me perhaps her most well-known song ‘Itchy Teeth’, and for a while a whole bunch of us became mildly obsessed with it. But over time my interest waned, and although she’s a semi-regular on a Spotify shuffle, she’s not a go-to listen for me. So when the opportunity came up to go and see her live in a space as intimate and personal as EVAC I couldn’t turn it down, as I was intrigued to see what new material she’d been working on since those college days.
EVAC is such a perfect space for shows like this, mainly because it allows such an interaction between performer and audience. Sadly the numbers were low, but for the 30-odd people there it was an absolute treat. Marika‘s ethereal songwriting paired with voice that haunts and amazes in equal measure meant that the entirety of EVAC were transfixed on her. Collections of people sitting in circles on the floor, hand in hand, all swaying gently in time to incredibly honest songs.
Initially, Hackman used an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by a bassist who provided gorgeous harmonies that reverberated around every nook and cranny of EVAC. She timidly announced that these were new songs to appear on We Slept At Last (dropping next February). There was an initial tangible uneasiness from her for showing these songs to the public for the first time, but after each one, the applause grew stronger, and Hackmen grew in confidence. She swapped her acoustic for a chorus-soaked Fender Mustang and conservatively announced that she wasn’t used to sitting down for shows. As she jangled the intro guitar parts to ‘Itchy Teeth’ people cheering gravitated towards the barrier at the front and you could feel Marika itching to feed from that energy. For the first time in the show, she looked up to enjoy everyone in the room singing along to the chorus. Alas, due to it being a stripped back performance she was unable to comply, but as her set went on both her and the crowd grew into the show. Her electric tracks were particularly impressive, with really intricate and unique guitar parts that hinted at that organic and textured West-coast American sound, often sounding like 2, 3, or even 4 separate guitars woven together at once. Combined with her unashamedly tender folk vocals, she created an intense atmosphere that is unlike any other female solo artist today.
Despite the distinct lack of people at EVAC, the people who were there were treated to an intimate glance into what we can expect from Marika Hackman’s new album. The haunting first single ‘Drown’ is available as an instant download when you pre-order the album We Slept At Last, and is testament to the craft she has been honing since I first came across her those years ago.