Kirsten Opstad at Precinct - Somerville, MA

Watching Kirsten Opstad on stage at the Precinct in Somerville reminded me of what it must have been like to see Ani Difranco before she was Ani Difranco. Kirsten’s about her height and size and carries the same acoustic guitar. And though the music styles are a bit different—Kirsten is already willing to play with more than Ani has so far—I did get the feeling that I was seeing an artist that, sometime soon, is going to make it so big.  

Kirsten Opstad, born in L.A. but now living in the Greater Boston Area, wears two hats, both of which come out when she’s on stage. She does improv comedy for the Improv Asylum of Boston, and also writes and records her own songs. The comedy comes out right off the bat, before Kirsten hits the stage. “Hand me that beer,” she tells me, gesturing at the Guiness in front of me, “I need to look like a badass.”

One of the things that really struck me during her forty minute set, and continues to strike me at each re-listen, is that Opstad somehow produces incredibly accessible music without ever losing merit. Her songs are catchy and fun—some even have sing-a-longs and dance breaks—but the words coming out aren’t nearly as simple as the four chord progression. Songs like “Embracing My Vices” and “A Little Unhappy” are fun to listen to, until you recognize yourself in the lyrics. “The shit I write about isn’t funny,” Opstad says. “But I learn to cope through laughter, so I put it with major chords and it just works.”

It’s a concept that makes a lot of sense when listening to her latest release, A Little Unhappy (EP). The songs are ones you’d roll down the windows and blare on the highways, but then you get lyrics like “I’d leave anything for you,” or “Why do we stay/our love is a grave?” and you can’t help but think, What if Patty Griffin was singing that?

Opstad, who is happily unsigned to any label and self-funding these endeavors, has a true talent, a fiesty stage presence, and fills a certain kind of space in the musical spectrum. She’s angsty enough when you need her to be, and then she’s funny, and then she’s got a tearjerker or two. Few possess Opstad’s versatility, or even the ability to bridge the fun-sounding melody with the not-so-fun lyrics of real life.

From where I sat at Precinct, a tiny table for two in the middle, I had a feeling I rarely get anymore; that knowledge that I’d be able to say “I knew her when.”

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