Nadia Reid + Julie Byrne @ The Miracle Theatre

By: Ava Mirzadegan

Alright, this show happened in early December, so I'm very late posting a review. But as there is an upcoming show happening at Miracle Theatre, I figured I'd take a moment, albeit overdue, to shed some light on this gem of a venue. It is quite appropriately named, as it does feel miraculous.

The venue is an old-fashioned and fully functioning, single-screen theatre. Located in Southwest DC, on a quaint strip of shops and eateries, it's quite the date-spot. They still play movies there from time to time- with limited showings fit in between other events going on in the space. 

Walking in to the theatre from the lobby, Nadia Reid had already begun her set. I was immediately taken aback by how otherworldly it felt. With Twin Peaks-esque red velvet curtains surrounding the stage, Reid, as though an angel, was glowing under spotlights. Her voice, resonant and full, sounded atmospheric and distant, while clear and near. (The sound engineers really know what they are doing at Miracle.)

Nadia Reid was first recommended to me back in 2016, when I was introduced to the album, Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs. Mystified by her compelling voice and knack for words, I was especially excited for last year's Preservation. In a world oversaturated by artists (whom I do like) that attempt to sound vocally unrefined, and lyrically simple- so as to give off an air of apathy- it is refreshing to encounter a musician and wordsmith like Reid. She blends portrait-like descriptions of humanity along with themes of faith to create a sibylline narrative, that feels divine in its delivery.

Along with Tiny Ruins (who is coming to DC this March), Aldous Harding, and Ella Yelich O'Connor, Reid is a part of an onset of powerhouse Kiwi musicians. Strangely enough, they make up, in large part, most of my favorite music. I suppose next time someone asks me what my favorite type of music is I can respond with a single word: Kiwi. 

Following a short intermission, Julie Byrne took the stage. Asking for the lights to be turned down, the ambience of the space was shifted entirely. It was no longer a theatre, or even a place at all- rather, it was a time. The Miracle was transformed into the darkest part of night, right before the morning, when you feel most alone. Byrne's unique finger-style guitar playing enveloped the audience, achieving a warm and meditative feeling. 

Many people in the past year have acknowledged Julie Byrne's contribution to modern folk - her critically acclaimed 2017 album, Not Even Happiness, single-handedly brought the genre back to the indie spotlight. The album is filled with songs that tell tales, paint pictures, and contain the magnitude of Byrne's nomadic adventures. Her detuned strings and playing style evoke masters of the craft like Nick Drake and Byrne's modern counterpart, Haley Heyndrickx. However, Byrne's approach feels effortlessly unique to her.

Between songs, Byrne's gentle speaking voice tells the audience the personal saga of her instrument. Her guitar was her fathers and was likely the first instrument she ever heard in her lifetime. The significance of this statement was not lost on the audience that was under Julie's spell. 

Joined onstage by a collaborator on synth, the sparse and captivating set was nothing short of magic.  My only complaint was that it felt far too short. 

An exquisitely matched pairing of acoustic folk artists, Nadia Reid and Julie Byrne were also the perfect introduction to this remarkable space.

I would highly recommend making it out to the Adrianne Lenker (of Big Thief) & Nick Hakim show happening at The Miracle Theatre this Friday (3/8). I can assure you it's going to be magnificent.