As if in honor of her arrival, Oakland personified Faye Webster’s balmy music by brewing a warm dusk on Friday night. Cherry-colored I Know I’m Funny Haha stickers peeked out from masks as people steadily filed inside The New Parish for the singer’s sold-out show, a vermillion neon light smoldering outside above the entrance.
Audience members shuffled through a narrow hallway until it opened up into a compact, cozy venue bubbling with conversation and drinks. Stark blue lights pierced the room’s humidity, and across the stage, wires slithered among half-full water bottles, patient instruments and blanketed decor.
Opener Kate Bollinger took the crowded stage, setting a homey atmosphere with her sweetly pensive set. Shortly after, however, the clement milieu shattered to the sound of screeching, maniacal hahas; although this jarring beginning to Webster’s set was off-putting, tension dissolved into tranquility as soon as the artist emerged with her bandmates.
A peacock-blue opaque dress swallowed Webster’s limbs, and she drifted across the stage like a chic, boho ghost in clogs. “Will you? Will you be with me?” she asked, a hopeful yearning punctuating the chorus of her opener “Better Distractions.” The crowd responded with a resounding yes.
As onlookers huddled around the stage and peered down from the balcony, Webster’s vocals took on an entrancing weightlessness, floating in defiance of her lyricism’s down-to-earth gravity. Webster frequently looked down at the floor with a smile, her expression somewhere between coy and knowing.
Beyond her bassist’s pistachio-green guitar, hazy red and blue dominated the stage, her album-cover-inspired aesthetic accentuated by custom ruby Haha lights. With the stage decor and lighting rather minimalistic, Webster’s whimsy took center stage: Bathing folksy R&B in a balmy breeziness, she shimmered with a radiant, playful modesty.
Many songs faded out with prolonged instrumental breaks, marvelously allowing emotion to simmer a little while longer. Webster often turned her back to the audience during these intervals, bent over her guitar in deep concentration. Her back was arched like a willow tree, her neck down and hair splayed over her face as she played with grace and freedom.
Webster meandered through her setlist with ease. She directed wry bitterness at a former “sh—y landlord”: “F— him, he kept my money,” she sang while performing her record’s title track, her middle finger met with boisterous cheers.
Between songs, Webster occasionally conversed with the loudest drunk audience member, prompting fleeting discussions of electrolytes and the color blue. (“What’s your favorite color?” she politely queried in return.)
Cobalt light swamped the stage for Webster’s dazzling performance of “In a Good Way,” and immediately after, an intoxicating rendition of “Cheers” wiped away any audience member’s tears with a guitar-driven energy boost.
At a random but outstanding moment of the night, Webster — a yo-yoer herself — brought out yo-yo world champion and her close friend Tessa Piccillo. Almost stealing the show, Piccillo brandished her glow-in-the-dark yo-yo as if it were a natural extension of her body, mesmerizing a delighted audience with extraordinary speed and precision.
The surprises continued, with sprightly Webster (an outspoken Nintendo Switch enthusiast) introducing her only cover of the night as a “f—ing bop.” When Webster and her band began to play K.K. Slider’s “K.K. Cruisin’ ” from Animal Crossing, the audience was thrilled to say the very least.
Later in the night, lilac light doused Webster for “A Dream With a Baseball Player,” a foamy, fluttery inquisition of what happens when anonymity meets romanticism. Her eyes darting around the venue after the first chorus, Webster leaned into the mic to confess she forgot a verse, though she continued effortlessly among scattered laughs.
Unfortunately, mirth subsided during “Half of Me,” during which Webster halted her performance twice due to audience members collapsing.
“Deadass, I have hella Pedialyte packets backstage,” Webster offered earnestly, wide-eyed and concerned. “Would that be helpful?”
Webster’s compassion helped relieve the crowd’s tension as medical assistance arrived, and anxiety eventually evaporated as Webster led into her final, groovy ballad “Kingston.”
“The day that I met you, I started dreaming,” she lilted, the track’s preliminary lyric instantly magnetic. The starry-eyed song made for a fitting end to the evening, as watching a live performance from Webster is like witnessing dreams be woven into reality.