Two guitars, one piano, one couple: The Weepies, an indie pop-folk duo starring Deb Talan ’90 and Steve Tannen, performed at the Martinos Auditorium at Granoff Center for the Creative Arts last Friday. They played stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs — the group’s setlist included oldies such as “Stars” and “Gotta Have You,” dating back to their 2006 album. The two also hosted a song-writing workshop at 2 p.m. in Granoff earlier that day.
“(My wife and I) listened to every song either of them had ever recorded,” said Butch Rovan, professor of music and director of the Brown Arts Initiative, in his opening address for The Weepies’ performance. “Knowing that Deb was a Brown grad, we always had this dream that we’d bring them back to do something with Brown.”
“It (isn’t) just their diligence and generosity and spirit that they bring to the act of making music, it’s their wit, their humor, their intelligence, their openness that makes their music so special,” Rovan added.
A lyrical and lilting style characterizes The Weepies’ music. Their performance drew members from the University and wider Providence community, who sat attentively in the darkness of the auditorium. Between songs, to the soft strumming of their guitars, Talan and Tannen shared stories and insight into their songwriting process.
For their encore, Talan crooned softly into the microphone the poetic words of “Stars”: “and I feel a pull to the blue-velvet dark and stars.”
“This is a song that we really co-wrote,” Talan said, as they prepared to perform their encore. “We had the flu. So we started it together, and then one would kind of pass out after a while and then the other would write a verse and then pass out. So this is inspired by high temperatures.”
“The majority of the time, it’s pure force of will that gets a song started, recorded and done. Performances are a little different — they are fed by the give-and-take with the audience,” wrote Talan and Tannen in an email to The Herald. “The best crowds inspire better performances and vice versa. It leaves you open in a way that’s hard to talk about, and it’s addictive,” they added.
“Society doesn’t highly value art or music except in rare cases, so especially as you start out you have to defend your empty time and protect the effort it takes to make something or find your way,” Talan and Tannen wrote. “You have to get comfortable doing your own thing in a fundamentally individual way. That’s challenging every day.”
The Weepies evoked nostalgia within many of members of the audience, some of whom found it difficult to find others with a shared interest in The Weepies.
“My parents used to sing them to me. … The last one that she sang, “Stars,” it’s one of my favorites,” said Julia Ostrowski ’20, an attendee of the performance. It was her third time seeing The Weepies perform live. “This was amazing, really emotional and just a very lovely experience to have much later on in life.”