Haphazard folkie Langhorne Slim is surprisingly soft-spoken, especially considering his well-known live charisma and stage antics that are equal parts crazy and lucid. It’s that live presence that has ushered the Langhorne, Penn., native into a realm far from where he began.
After graduating from high school, Slim (real name: Sean Scolnick) did time in the Big Apple’s open mic scene and attended the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in New York.
“I was out of my league there academically,” Slim says, praising empathetic professors who he says didn’t know what to do with him. He says they cut him plenty of slack and handed out passing grades.
“It helped me get an earlier start,” Slim says.
But it’s where he’s gone since then that’s of consequence: Bonnaroo. Lollapalooza. An appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Those are what Slim considers to be among his more tangible achievements, and they allowed a larger audience to experience his music at its strongest: onstage.
“It is my greatest sort of high,” Slim says. “My best feeling comes from playing.”
Irrefutably, it is his live performances that have propelled Slim into prominence in the indie-folk world. Slim throws himself across the stage, howling like a banshee and tousling the audience’s energy with aplomb. It’s impossible not to be drawn in to his onstage brouhaha.
When his songs lean toward the slow and the serene, the fanatical side of Slim is only momentarily quieted — but never totally absent. Slim insists his onstage magnetism is a natural gift.
“I can’t help it,” Slim says, chuckling. “It’s just what comes out.”
His live performances have served as a catapult so far, but like many successful performance musicians, Langhorne Slim’s recordings lack the insatiable charm of his live shows.
In the studio, Slim is anchored by the inspired stylings of his backing band — and that’s a good thing. They distract when Slim gets a little too dude-with-a-diary in his lyrics.
“It’s all true stuff from my life, but some of the characters have their names changed to protect the innocent,” Slim says.
Perhaps the production process tames the wild-child Slim too much. And it would be a shame to judge the man — such a captivating performer — from his records alone.
Langhorne Slim plays with Enola Gay and Josh Hedlund at Empyrean on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8. All-ages. Call 838-9819.