Fremont Abbey hosted an evening of mostly acoustic music by candlelight on January 19, 2019. It was a full house, and when the standing room ran out in the back of the venue, fans started sitting on the hardwood floor beside the stage.
Norwegian singer–songwriter Thomas Dybdahl opened with a soulful solo set of guitar and vocals, plus one song on piano. Dybdahl often plays with a full backing band, but his breathy crooning and strumming resonated easily throughout the church. “I am a professional, so of course I have a set list,” he said dryly as he fished the paper out of his pocket. Based in the southwestern city of Stavanger, Dybdahl is a popular musician in his home country. His English-language songs make his work accessible in the U.S., and although they have been a little slower to catch on here, Dybdahl has toured (and briefly resided) in the States for years and been recognized by Billboard, NPR, and the L.A.Times. Self-deprecating in his delivery, Dybdahl joked that he was taking requests if anyone had heard of his music, and seemed surprised when an audience member shouted, “Cecilia!” Dybdahl played the soft ballad “Moving Pictures” first, and then continued with the request. Dybdahl is touring in support of his August 2018 album, All These Things.
Nashville-based Americana guitarist Lera Lynn played the second set, accompanied by guitarist Todd Lombardo. “All right. We’re going to play some artsy, depressing music for you,” she deadpanned. Lynn’s dark themes and lyrics definitely stood in contrast to her vocal sweetness, which provided a welcome edge to more standard country music. Between tunes, Lynn was irreverent and witty, with a bit about a Phoenix burrito that tasted like boiled water, a confession that she was embarrassed about wearing an Apple watch onstage but didn’t want to miss counting any steps, and a sincere (and mostly successful) promise to try to avoid swearing at the all-ages event. In June of 2018, Lynn released Plays Well with Others, an album of duets with eight other artists that earned positive press from Rolling Stone and NPR. Dybdahl joined Lynn and Lombardo for the encore, and then they stayed after the show to sign CDs and greet a long line of fans.