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Musician gives Europe a taste of Bay Area
San Francisco-based musician Linda Sao performs at Playground Art Centre in Valencia, Spain. Photo: Jessica Delatorre

Melodic tones from a musician fill a Spanish cafe halfway across the world in Valencia, Spain, as San Francisco-based singer Linda Sao pours out her heart before tourists and locals alike. Blinking LED lights rest near her feet, illuminating the otherwise dim room in ArtySana.

Sao, the lead singer of See Night, is touring solo in Europe with stops in Spain and Ireland. Traveling with a backpack, miniature amp, guitar and not to be forgotten LED lights, Sao’s voice overflows into the calles of Valencia where she’s performed in small venues, grasping the audience’s attention with her enchanting vocals.

“Human connection is very multi-faceted, especially playing live,” Sao said. “I go inward and I feel a connection with the music, and then hopefully from that other people can feel the connection and through that there’s a bridge.”

Wearing a shimmer high neck halter top with long weaving brown hair tucked to the right side of her shoulder, Sao jokingly giggles with the crowd. As she attempts to speak Spanish it’s obvious a foreign tongue to her. She doesn’t shy away from trying and her giant smile makes up for the language barrier.

Touring solo, she has a band that performs monthly out of San Francisco. She took the adventure of booking solo shows throughout Europe for three months. Her passion is to share her music.

Jana Pluckthun, co-owner with her husband Bakr Tanwir of Cafe ArtySana, said she met Sao last October and enjoyed her music. “We are fascinated by her style,” said Pluckthun. “I think it takes a lot of courage to get on stage alone, what makes her different is that her music is quite slow and quite meditative. Her music is a little more, ‘tranquilo,’ as we say her in Spain, which creates a beautiful atmosphere for the people listening.”

Although she doesn’t sport her political views on stage, the night she performed in Valencia, she shared her perspective as a first-generation Asian American.

The daughter of a Vietnamese refugee and U.S. Navy pilot, Sao, feels the political tension in the United States.

“The current political climate certainly addresses, attacks, both those aspects of my identity,” she said.

San Francisco-based musician Linda Sao performs at Playground Art Centre in Valencia, Spain. Photo: Jessica Delatorre

Although she doesn’t claim to be an expert on politics or to be an activist, Sao said, “I’m just a human who, like many of us, have felt shocked and disheartened by the Trump election and current political dialogue.”

A sticker on her guitar has a strike through the word misogyny. “It was simply a ‘silent’ way to visually respond to the Trump election and the subsequent vocal misogyny that was happening and has been happening ever since.”

Sao said she hopes to use the stage to shine a light on her political and human values and the injustices women face.

“Does touring solo in Europe motivate me to want to emphasize how not all Americans voted for Trump, and that in these times of immigration backlash—both in America and Europe—a call for rational human empathy with acceptance not arrogance needs to ring louder? Of course,” she said.

Sao said she doesn’t have a defined agenda on how to incorporate political tones into her music, but eventually will. “Right now I’m just a struggling DIY musician trying to play music from my heart.”

Although her music and lyrics don’t have a political message, Sao’s inspiration for her band’s name is personal. It was influenced by the type of aircraft her father flew during the Vietnam war.

“I wanted it to be connected to something private. Like a secret soulfulness no one knew about. So the name was initially Sea Knight,” referring to a type of helicopter used by the U.S. military.

Sao said that in the wake of Trump’s administration and after Google searches led her to war photos, she decided to change the spelling of the band’s name. “I wanted to change the name to See Night as a personal way of reacting to the war-mongering and conflict-driven approaches permeating everything,” she said. She isn’t intimidated by her age or what life stage people her age are in.

“How many women in their 30s or 40s do you know starting a rock band or touring solo for the first time?” Sao asked. “While all my friends were getting married and having kids, I was just starting to dream about birthing an indie rock band.”

Story by: Jessica Delatorre