Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Smittens | Firehouse Gallery | Aug 16

Completing my recent trio of shows in art galleries and studios was last night’s show at The Firehouse Gallery on Church St. in Burlington. The show worked well for me because I was already going to be in Colchester for my final appointment with a nutritionist who is helping me maintain the weight I’ve lost (now down 55 lbs. since Easter). So, it was an easy hop over to Burlington for the show.

I had some time to kill before the show, so I decided to grab dinner. Unfortunately, I made a big mistake and chose to have some sushi at Sakura. I’ve eaten there a few times before and had stomach pains after each meal. However, like an idiot, I thought somehow tonight would be different. I was wrong. Same crap food and same stomach pains. Don’t eat at that dump. It sucks.

Despite having dinner, I was still on the early side when I went by Firehouse for the show. I could see The Smittens inside setting up for the show. However, nobody else was inside yet. So, I decided to wander back up to Borders to grab a few magazines; the latest issues of Four Four Two and Soccer America, as well as The Believer’s music issue. When I came back, the doors were open and Greg Davis, who was promoting the show, was collecting money at the door. However, he didn’t have change for a $20. So, I set back out onto Church St. to find some change. Unfortunately, all the stores were closed and the restaurants were too busy to help. But after some persistence, I found a place to break my $20 and I headed back to the show.

The Firehouse Gallery is a cool little room. Large floor to ceiling windows looking out onto Church St. and gallery-white walls which were displaying a collection of framed black & white photos. I should have kept with that theme and taken my photos in black & white too but I didn’t think of that until now. Like Space Gallery and Kriya Studio, the room isn’t really set up for good acoustics. However, both The Smittens and Lullatone seemed to understand this and turned down their amps.

Firehouse is also the smallest of the three rooms. However, with about fifty people in the room for the show (plus the band) there was a good energy to the show. It just goes to show that a small crowd in a small room can be just as exciting as a big crowd in a big room. The key is to just not have a ton of empty space for a show. Plus, about a third of the room came dressed in their pajamas which tweaked the mood in the room towards the positive end of the meter.

The Smittens started the night with a little band cheer; making a circle and putting their hands in the middle, they then shot their hands up like a sports team as they cheered something I couldn’t understand in unison. In all the shows I’ve seen over the years, that was the first time I’ve ever seen a band do that. It was goofy but it put a smile on my face that didn’t really leave all night. Their infectious pop tunes bopped along from one to another with healthy doses of good cheer from the band between songs. Alex, their keyboardist, was ill and not at the show but a lady who performed on their upcoming album did join them on stage for a few songs to share vocals and tambourine.

Here’s the beauty of The Smittens…they don’t take themselves too seriously. However that can be a difficult line to walk because if you’re too goofy, people won’t take your music seriously either. The Smittens did a good job of being light-hearted but still exhibiting enough care in the delivery of their pop melodies to make for a fun musical night. They even threw in a cover of Neil Diamond-circa-The Monkees’ “I'm a Believer” which fit in sonically perfect with the rest of their set.

Here's two new songs from their set. The first one is called "100 Roses" but I'm not sure of the title of the other one.

During their performance, Dana from The Smittens mentioned how they had just returned from a tour up and down the east coast and it had gone very well. I learned how well it had gone when I tried to buy a shirt between sets and they were sold out of all their large and extra-large shirts. Dave, the bassist, said the shirts went really quick. Good for them.

Between the sets, I spoke briefly to Vermont’s newest music blogger, Nick from Angioplasty Media. It’s brand new so there isn’t much there now but they have big ambitions. So, it’s probably a good one to bookmark.

It took Lullatone all of about ten minutes to set up. That’s one of the upside of seeing an electronica band whose laptops and keys can all be carried out on a table and just plugged in. I’m not a big electonica fan when it’s pure electonica so I thought I’d stick around for a few songs and then decide if I want to stay or go. Now, in hidsight, I’m really glad I didn’t leave because I smiled from the moment Lullatone touch the stage to the very end.

Lullatone is a two person band; husband and wife. Yoshimi Tomida handled all of the vocals while hubby, Shawn James Seymour, commanded the majority of the bleeps and bloops. However, the beauty of the guy was his infectious child-like enthusiasm. He seemed genuinely excited to be playing their first show in the Vermont and on their first US tour.

They started the night by asking for some volunteers to play some color-coded recorders that had tape over certain holes so they’d only play that one note. Then the people were choreographed to play along with his electronic beats while a video of colored raindrops ran in the background. It was just so different from the typical indie show that it was exciting and fresh.

Then later in the show, Seymour announced that for the next song, Tomida would be singing and he didn’t have anything to do. So, he wanted to play volleyball. He pulled out a big garbage bag full of white balloons with musical notes drawn on them and proceeded to toss them out into the crowd. That got everyone batting the balloons around the room as she sang her gentle tune. Once again, it was goofy but amusing. However, watching the white balloons float around the room against the background of white walls while the music played was sort of beautiful too.

Here's a video of the "balloon volleyball":

And another video focusing on their performance:

After about 45 minutes, they finished their set and left the stage. In a true encore moment, the crowd clapped and clapped until the duo shyly came back to the stage for one more song. This time they decided to do a dance song and got everyone up on their feet. It was fun way to end the night.

Here’s the thing about Lullatone, as I mentioned before, I probably wouldn’t spend time at home listening to their delicate electronica pajama pop. It isn’t what I’m typically drawn too. However, in concert and in that intimate setting, it was great. If they were playing again, I’d go see them again…and I’d bring a few friends along.

For the out-of-towners, here’s a list of their remaining tour dates:

8/20 Buffalo TBA
@ soundlab
110 pearl st, corner of pearl/swan, downtown buffalo 14202

8/21 Rochester
@ Boulder Coffee Co.
100 Alexander St. Rochester, NY 14620 Phone: 585.454.7140

8/22 Philadelphia @ Milkboy Coffee house w/ Alex Luquet

8/25 NY w/ alias pail, tristan perich/loud objects and more!
@ glasslands gallery
L Train to first stop Bedford Ave / JMZ To Marcy
289 Kent Ave (btw South 1st and South 2nd) Phone: 718.599.1450


Bob said...

55 lbs? You're a better man than me.

Flatlander said...

It speaks more to how far I had slid during the early years of parenthood.

greg davis said...

boy, that was a really fun show.
thanks for coming out and the sweet review!!!