Vagabon Leaves Crowd in Awed Silence at Walter’s Downtown
Vagabon — stage name of Laetitia Tamko — contains multitudes.
The New York singer/songwriter/producer’s debut album, Infinite Worlds, seamlessly folds warbling synth pop into potent indie rock. Her lyrics are organic, reminiscent of a raw conversation in a quiet living room. Yet, as Vagabon earns accolades from The New York Times to Pitchfork, intimate performances like the one at Walter’s Downtown seem like they could soon be a diminishing resource.
A few handfuls of people trickled into the Houston music venue on the first Friday night of October. Passing time, they either bellied up to the bar, browsed the smartly curated Deep End Records, or ate at patio-side Pan De Taco as it filled the air with hints of cilantro and lime. Folks seemed eager but hushed. They knew the stakes.
The backline in place, a modest podium rose from the stage: a keyboard stand, an unfinished two-by-four cutting, and a Roland synthesizer within arms reach of a Fender Stratocaster. A buzz rose from the crowd as Tamko approached her instruments. In the modest audience, careful listeners might’ve identified each person’s cheers, guessed at their head space as the show began. Gently, a new song swelled from the speakers. Tamko’s powerful, breathy voice shook the audience. Her fingers balanced nimbly on the rubber pads of her Roland.
At the melody’s end, the crowd fell utterly silent.
There’s magic in a quiet crowd’s collective wonder. Humbly, Tamko quipped about how alien it was to tune her guitar to a silent audience. A wall of awe-struck fans quickly turned into bantering friends, and Vagabon’s spell was cast.
Elise Okusami and Maggie Toth then mounted the stage, and Vagabon performed “Cold Apartment” with a flattening energy. Toth’s growling bass lines and Okusami’s clever drumming remained as impactful as Tamko’s performance, bringing Infinite Worlds to life. From crowd favorite “The Embers” to the final gift of “Alive And A Well,” Vagabon’s performance proved fundamental, conversational, moving.
Afterwards, Tamko lingered, chatting with the loitering crowd. At least once, she confided a desire to weave a network of women and femmes throughout her tour.
Tamko’s community-minded approach is an inimitable thread weaved into the Vagabon experience. It’s one thing to get on stage with only elemental equipment and leave an audience in silent admiration. It’s another thing entirely to crumble the divide between performer and audience with genuine warmth. So, as Vagabon inevitably outgrows these mid-sized rooms—understandably shrinking the space for casual conversation after the show—the people lucky enough to have bonded with her in these early days will remain inspired by and devoted to her honest, essential work.