On the first night of a pair of sold-out shows at Mississippi Studios, 29-year-old singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx performed before a palpably adoring crowd. Hands clasped against their chests, fans gazed up with a mix of holy reverence and girl crush.
It was Heynderickx's first local headliner show since before the pandemic and the start of a month-long West Coast tour. Within the narrow venue’s warm, maroon walls, the Portland-based electric-folk artist played an intimate and stripped down set of fan favorites—opening with “The Bug Collector” and “No Face”— along with new songs that all seemed like contenders for her much-anticipated follow-up, which she teased for release in 2024.
The nature motifs found on her 2018 debut album, I Need to Start a Garden continue in her new works and serve as a dialogue with the natural world, which Heynderickx seemed to suggest humans had forsaken.
On a track titled “Foxglove,” she mused about the challenge of building a life as an artist, while twirling the namesake poisonous flower in her hand. In a different, comparatively dramatic number, she questioned society’s treatment of food from the perspective of the vegetable:
“It’s a very introspective cabbage that’s angry at humans and how we treat food,” she said from the stage.
While playing, Heynderickx primarily angled her body toward accompanying bass player and backing vocalist Matthew Holmes, maintaining a close physical dialogue and exchanging smiles. She seemed to be sharing a musical experience with her bandmate just as much as she was headlining a show for her hometown.
“Well, that was cozy,” Heynderickx said softly, after “Drinking Song”—another beloved cut.
Looking out across the sold-out venue, Heynderickx described feeling “trippy.” She reflected on how she had gone from sneaking into Mississippi Studios, as a 19-year-old Portland State University student, to headlining onstage.
“I feel like, argh, no,” Heynderickx said, with a smile. “I feel like Ed Sheeran, selling out two shows, or something.”
“Three shows!” someone in the back of the room shouted.
The third show, an all-ages night to support My Voice Music, had been added in March. It wasn't part of the set of Mississippi shows, which offered a chance to see Heynderickx perform solo the first night and with her full band the next, but it sold out at a similar speedy clip.
The highlight of her Friday solo set arrived with “Oom Sha La La,” an endearingly confessional track that spawned her first album's title. Anticipation built during the bridge. The audience, shifting weight between their legs, was prepared for catharsis. When Heynderickx’s voice crescendoed, the crowd howled along—culminating into a final, collective cry for evolution: “I HAVE TO START A GARDEN!”
At the show's close, Heynderickx didn't make her audience beg long. Shortly after leaving the stage, she and Holmes returned.
“Culturally what is an encore?” she asked.
Heynderickx had saved the best for last, dedicating the final title to the women in her family.
“I’m grateful for the sacrifices they made so a weirdo like me can do what I love,” she said.
Typically, at this point in the show, she would tease her parents, the Filipina-American artist explained, but neither could make it that night. So she sang of her mother’s immigration from Hong Kong, the flowers that grew on her grandmother’s grave, and the unsung artistry in the lives they’ve led. Light and lullaby-like, the new track “Swoop” was yet another song in which Heynderickx gave stage time to what matters—quiet sacrifices, beauty that sticks around.