Prscilla Ahn @ Yoshi's SF 5-15-2014

Music Spotlight: Priscilla Ahn

Last week I got a chance to see Priscilla Ahn perform at Yoshi’s San Francisco. The audience and I were lucky since it was her last performance on her tour. There were no opening acts so we were treated to a full two hour set consisting of her old and new songs.

If you’re not familiar with Ahn, she was featured on the soundtrack for Pacific Rim and has written the theme song for the upcoming Studio Ghibli film, When Marnie Was There.

For this concert, Ahn resurrected one of her older songs, “The Boobs Song,” which has a very interesting backstory. Ahn’s boyfriend at the time (now husband) Michael Weston let her stay at his place while he was out of town. She started looking at what books he had on his shelf and pulled out a book of poetry.

Flipping open the cover, she found a note written to Weston from a girl which read, “Dear Michael, I know that you’re a really sweet and sensitive guy so I hope you enjoy this book of poems. I hope it also reminds you of my boobs.”

Priscilla Ahn – The Boobs Song from The Mighty Fifty on Vimeo.

“What the fuck??” exclaimed Ahn on stage, laughing.

She waited until he got home and told him she wrote a song for him. “Listen to the lyrics,” she told him before she began playing.

She made him recycle the book.

While the story and music sound lighthearted, Ahn still displays her fragile self-confidence. “I get scared that my love will not do.”

Another song she played that showed her honest and fragile emotions (and a song that touched me deeply) was “Wallflower.” The story behind the song begins when she first moved from Berks County, Pennsylvania to Los Angeles when she was 19 to pursue her dream of making music. A friend of her invited her to a “house party,” which meant an entirely different thing to Ahn having grown up in “the sticks.”

“In Pennsylvania, a house party usually meant that there would be bonfire and a keg. Well the house party I went to was in the Hollywood Hills, which was not like that at all,” said Ahn.

Feeling underdressed and out of place, Ahn wrote “Wallflower,” a song that imagines her meeting another party-goer who feels equally out of place. Unfortunately, that never happened during the party.

This song touched me deeply because I felt out of place throughout much of my childhood and even early adult life. To this day, I am still a wallflower but that’s OK. That’s just who I am and that’s just who Ahn is.

priscilla ahn this is where we are cover

If you’re familiar with Ahn’s discography, you probably noticed how different her most recent album, This is Where We Are, is from the rest of her work. This is because she found it hard to write songs after her marriage.

Ahn was happy and no longer used her guitar for comfort. To help find her new musical direction, she began experimenting with synthesizers and took to the desert to find her new sound.

This Is Where We Are sounds experimental because it is. Not that that’s a bad thing, on the contrary. The emotions and honesty found throughout her music is still present. Just take a listen to “Remember How I Broke Your Heart.”

One of the things I love most about Ahn’s music is how effortless her voice sounds. Her voice never sounds strained, even when carrying the highest notes. Her performance on stage was excellent and sounded even better than her recordings.

Priscilla Ahn @ Yoshi's SF

I purchased her first album, A Good Day, on vinyl which sounds spectacular but it doesn’t compare to hearing her voice live. Mastered and pressed at the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, the record sounds fantastic and really captures the timbre and texture of her voice. Still, it can’t match the real thing.

After the concert, she came out and made sure to meet every eager fan waiting in line. It was a pleasure to watch her perform and to meet her in person. If you like her music, definitely go to one of her concerts next time she’s on tour.

To read about other artists I’ve been listening to recently, check out my other Music Spotlights.

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