When the sun comes out in the Windy City, Chicagoans celebrate by enjoying live music. On April 12 – one of the first downright beautiful days of the season – concert-goers were treated to a night full of roots rhythms and enthralling jams as Nashville-based singer-songwriter Tristen and her band headlined Haymarket Pub & Brewery during an installment of the establishment’s Thursday Night Americana Concert Series.

Taking place in the brewpub’s Drinking and Writing Theater – an intimate space with good acoustics – Tristen had her work cut out for her in order to captivate the attention of post-work, happy hour revelers. After a lighting adjustment and a few funny moments where the singer’s wry humor shined, all eyes were fixed on the stage. Once Tristen captured the crowd, she never let go.


Much of the set featured music from Tristen’s latest album, “Sneaker Waves,” a pop-infused examination of human nature underlined by a solid folk framework. Soft and slow, “Negotiating” found the musician pleading her case for specific love while her band patiently played with time and tones. Later, “Glass Jar” – ethereal and infectious – tore apart condescending conversationalists who make you feel like you’re suffocating, a la a captured insect, to pop perfection.

Where Tristen and her band truly shined was in their ability to spellbind fans with intricate and interesting jams. The surfy and fun “Dream Within a Dream,” provided the singer a platform to show off her soulful chops while her husband and bandmate Buddy Hughen wailed a classic guitar solo reminiscent of the early days of rock and roll.


In a recent interview with Rebellious Magazine, Tristen explained that it’s the music that actually creates the musician rather than the other way around – a phenomenon that was on display in the live setting. “I don’t know where these influences come from, and I don’t know why I write the songs the way that I do or why the melody has different time signatures, but it probably has something to do with influences and listening to music that also does that in the composition,” she said.

A few of Tristen’s influences could be heard during the Haymarket show as the set list included nods to The Velvet Underground and The Smiths, the latter of which found the singer taking a page from Morrissey’s playbook by navigating the stage – sans guitar – with a corded mic and a healthy heaping of swagger while singing “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” The interactive closer “Psychic Vampire” and “Partyin’ Is Such Sweet Sorrow” – during which Tristen took the opportunity to remind fans to tip their bartenders – were also memorable moments during the endlessly enjoyable set.


Earlier in the night, Chicago’s own Josefina conjured the essence of country and rockabilly throughout her opening set. Covers of Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt peppered a performance full of tracks from the singer-songwriter’s 2018 debut “Starry Dome.”

Tristen will continue to tour across North America throughout April. Head over to to stay on top of her latest news and releases.

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...