In the past 12 months, I’ve attended 25 shows and one festival. Three of those experiences have featured Haley Heynderickx in some beautiful capacity and I feel really grateful for that. Prior to Wednesday night the last time I saw her was at the Newport Folk Festival where she played a standout set and then walked over to the Quad Stage to watch Rayland Baxter in 92-degree heat. Tonight she’s at the Columbus Theatre again (last February she opened for Andy Shauf) playing a sold-out show with her best friend, Tre Burt.
100% of all performances upstairs at the Columbus Theatre include/require ample time for artists to tune and re-tune instruments. This “tune time” usually leads to impromptu Q&As. Wednesday night was no exception. “What’s is like to live here?” asks Burt. “It’s terrible!” responds someone from the crowd. “Why don’t you move then?” Fair question; however, if we moved we’d miss watching amazing performances such as Tre Burt’s, inside of an old, former adult-movie theater located in a brilliant city we can all barely afford with sprightly creatives at our feet (Very literally. Sold out at the Columbus apparently means ten people won’t have seats and they will use your legs as back support).
I wasn’t familiar with Tre Burt prior to Wednesday and that feels both bogus and sad. He’s very, very good and an artist I’d naturally gravitate toward. With no shortage of guitar, harmonica, lyrics, and voice, I can’t help but be reminded of Bob Dylan. I know! I don’t like comparing one artist to another (especially THAT artist!) but I’m going to do that twice in this review (we’ve got one out of the way) and maybe they’re cheap and easy comparisons but, hey — I get excited when something fresh feels reminiscent of something I love. Tre Burt plays over a handful of songs including “The Undead God of War” (written during the reality star turned President timeline), “What Good” (a love song), “Franklin’s Tunnel” and “Caught it From the Rye” (the title of his debut album). The crowd listens to every story. It’s hard not to be charmed by the apologetic grumpiness and bluesy folkiness of an artist who just gets on stage and plays like he was just handed a guitar out of nowhere.
This brings me to Haley Heynderickx who I will compare to Joni Mitchell forever and always because how can I not? Heynderickx prefaces one of her new songs by saying, “I’ve heard many songs about ramblin’ men but not ramblin’ women” and then plays this tune that hits all the Mitchell octaves and all the Mitchell vibes. What’s not to love? Because it ain’t her voice or her crispy bluegrass guitar playing or her stories about her parents or her time in Germany–throw in some lyrics over John Fahey’s “In Christ there is No East or West” and we’re the furthest we’ve been from answering my initial question.
Heynderickx is clearly tired of the material she’s been playing over the last some-odd years (she’s definitely been playing longer than we’ve been hearing) but that doesn’t stop her from graciously making her way through “Oom Sha La La,” “The Bug Collector,” or “No Face.” She seems a little over it but you’d only know it because that’s pretty much what she says. Her performance shows no effects from the repetition and routine. Someone in the crowd asks when we can hear all the new music she played for us and she says “3-5 years and it’s going to be called ‘I Need to Start a Family’ and all of my children will play on it.” Heynderickx ends her set with Tre Burt. They perform Jackson Browne’s/Nico’s “These Days” and really it can’t get much better than that.