I avoided Kimya Dawson like a plague the last time she came through Isla Vista and played at the Pink Mailbox back in 2007. “Juno,” the Oscar-nominated “indie” darling of that year, had recently come out and the soundtrack was on its way to being a #1 best seller. How the fuck did this little DIY artist find her way to the top of the Billboard charts so quickly? And why would she still play house shows?

This time around, however, I warmed up to the idea of seeing her at the Biko Co-op. I had never really given her a chance anyway, and many of my music-playing peers praise her as a prime influence.

Because 600 guests confirmed on Facebook, while another 300 were ”
“maybes,” you can imagine the co-op’s residents had prepared for the worst. If you’ve ever been inside the Biko garage for shows, there is definitely not enough room for that many people.

Those opening acts included Girl Band, a project from UCSB students Rebecca Redman and Mallory Watje; Omnivore, a cute girl with an even cuter haircut who hails from Massachusetts and played exclusively on circuit-bent telephones, and Liz Isenberg, a Rhode Island-based artist who is becoming increasingly well known for her dream-pop-meets-folk aesthetic.

Finally, the woman herself, Kimya Dawson, came out, cueing much applause from the crowd of nearly 200 people of all ages. Attendees were squeezed together on the concrete courtyard, and at least 20 people occupied prime views on the roof of the co-op. I’ll just say that I was damn impressed by her performance. She knows how to entertain a crowd with a bit of wit, charm and fun, all thrown together in a cocktail of focused, precise and seemingly simple music. She has very particular messages to articulate, which are incredibly effective due to the painfully simple music they are accompanied by.

Dawson started the evening by playing a good half-dozen songs from her newest album (written for kids) called Alphabutt. She later switched to a more serious note, playing “Happy Home (Keep on Writing),” a song written as a goodbye letter to a music teacher who inspired Dawson but died before she could thank him. It was incredibly moving and shows just how versatile Dawson is as an artist and performer.

At some point, Dawson tested the “in” crowd by singing an a cappella version of Paul Baribeau’s “Ten Things.” And thank God she didn’t sing the mega-smash hit “Anyone Else but You” from the film “Juno.” I mean, without her Moldy Peaches partner Adam Green, it just would have been silly. More importantly, Dawson played a wonderful show, because she played from the heart despite the ever expanding outside knowledge of the low-fi, DIY world.