Indigo De Souza revels in rawness at Bottom of the Hill

photo of Indigo De Souza in concert
Jackie Samsell/Staff

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Green velvet curtains hung haphazardly from ceiling beams, absorbing the murmurs that arose from a small crowd. People milled around San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill, floating between an outdoor courtyard and the space in front of the stage, with a few drawn like moths to the blurred glow of a tiny TV screen above the bar showing Monday night’s baseball game. 

When it was time for Spruce Pine-borne artist Indigo De Souza to take the stage, however, a spotlight beamed on center stage and the entire crowd flocked in awe. Flanked on either side by a bassist and guitarist in Carhartt overalls and white t-shirts, De Souza looked like a Madonna-on-the-rocks of sorts, the triangular composition capitulating on her figure — clad in a Tupac Shakur graphic tee and donning mini-buns haloed in purple scrunchies. De Souza’s tattoo-stamped arms graced both an elevated keyboard and her white guitar, revving up for the show. 

An extended intro to “Bad Dream,” a track off of De Souza’s sophomore album Any Shape You Take, started the night off with crooning vocals and a punctuated drum beat. Nearing the end of “Bad Dream,” De Souza began a sequence of vibrato-filled vocals that rose up and down, with one hand on the keys and the other conducting in the direction of her pitch. Almost yodel-like in texture, this technical talent surprised the crowd as De Souza does not heavily feature it on the album. 

At times, the fluid mobility of De Souza’s vocals seemed to be beckoned from a place of inner ease, each vocal run a stream of consciousness rather than a planned delivery. Gasps would join the crowd’s cheers whenever De Souza abandoned her intended plans and simply wailed into her mic, hedging her band to keep up with her unabashed, and perhaps uncontrolled, expression of emotion. 

De Souza’s range as a vocal artist took center stage, as wispy, wanting softness coated the lyrics of “Darker Than Death” then instantly escalated to a proclaiming chant during the chorus of “Die/Cry.” The complete rawness of De Souza’s vocals came through in person, much stronger than in her studio albums. At times sweetly saccharine, her vocals soothed and sharpened the senses. 

Little to no room was left between songs, as outros faded to intros within seconds. While the crowd was kept captivated by the continuation, space between songs felt needed for everyone to catch a breath. By the time De Souza introduced her band, Dexter Webb on guitar, Zack Kardon on bass and Avery Sullivan on drums, the performance felt interrupted as De Souza had already been playing for about 30 minutes. De Souza’s stage presence was undeniable, albeit with limited crowd interaction, which only made the crowd sanctify every giggle and small sign of gratitude the artist uttered. 

De Souza’s harmonies with Webb — an impeccable individual musician during the set — brought dynamic dimension to her already texturally layered tracks. During “The Sun is Bad,” a slower ballad from De Souza’s debut I Love My Mom, these harmonies evoked the softest sentiments as De Souza and Webb belted out the lyrics’ apologies to a crowd so entranced that it would forgive the pair in an instant. 

The morbid and the melancholy saturate De Souza’s style. Yet, the night was not all yearning and mourning, and at times, bubbled with vitality during upbeat tracks, such as “Take Off Ur Pants.” Each vibration of the venue’s floor testified to De Souza’s ability to guide a crowd from the verge of heartbreak into overwhelming joy. 

Every cry that she sent into the space was welcomed by hands that rose from the crowd to join the same green curtains that soaked up her vibrato’s euphoric lightness. The pure talent from De Souza and each of her members, enlivening her two studio albums in such an intimate setting, was nothing short of a privilege to witness. 

Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.