When Big Thief—Brooklyn based indie-rock band comprising of Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia—constructed their latest record, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, they had no idea the record would be the sprawling, eclectic offering it turned out to be. Dragon has been Big Thief’s most revolutionary work to date, not just thanks to its sheer length (as the record is nearly an hour and a half long), but because of its duality; throughout Dragon, Big Thief is both young and old, cold and warm, paying homage to the roots of folk music while still finding ways to infuse their work with the heart of contemporary rock.

Though there was no hours-long line for Big Thief at Eugene’s intimate McDonald Theater, the venue filled quickly as the band’s opening act—Tucker Zimmerman, a tribute to the world of old folk, acoustic, warm, and gritty—performed. Anticipation for Big Thief to magically appear was beyond palpable as fans pressed into the dimly lit venue.

When nine o’clock rolled around and Big Thief took the stage, it quickly became clear that Dragon is a record best absorbed—absorbed, because experiencing it is a matter far beyond listening—in person.

Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker has an energy about her that is almost otherworldly; it’s near impossible for long-time fans to not view her as some kind of prophet. With lyrics like, “What if all the worlds in space / Would melt into one single place / And intertwine the human race / With other kinds,” and, “Death’s like a door / To a place we’ve never been before / Death, like space / A deep sea, a suitcase,” Dragon is a new kind of truth for listeners—it’s thoughtful and nuanced and, simply put, magical.

This magic is only enhanced when Big Thief performs live. Though the show started softly, opening with acoustic ballads like Dried Roses and The Only Place. Lenker later mentioned that the band had begun their cross-country tour playing primarily their intense, rock-rooted numbers. As the tour progressed from coast to coast, though, the four musicians began taking the opportunity to rediscover their own acoustic music—soft and anthemic. This included stunning solo performances from both Lenker and guitarist Buck Meek, along with a number of unreleased tracks.

However, Big Thief’s performance quickly transitioned from ruminative to celebratory.

The band invited Zach Burba—a fresh indie-folk act­—onstage to perform a couple songs with them, and quickly broke out the electric guitars. It’s impossible to not be enthralled by Big Thief’s showstopper, “Not,” a thrumming, writhing ode to inexplicability, paired with a three minute long guitar solo that serves as almost as a scream. Lenker performs with a multitude of emotions, and as she poured them all into “Not,” it was as if the entirety of the crowded theatre held its breath.

Things wound down after that, with the band switching guitars after almost every song—Lenker cycled through 12-string acoustics and half-hollow electrics almost like second nature. It felt almost like the audience had the pleasure of watching Big Thief rehearse in their own basement, not in the sense that anything was messy, but in the band’s intimacy, in their comfort on stage.

And though—after their final series of songs and a never-ending eruption of applause—the band didn’t return to stage for an encore, it wasn’t as if they needed to. They had already left all of themselves, every piece magic, on stage.

Big Thief at the McDonald Theater, May 5th 2022