Thursday, January 25, 2018

Smol Data, Crash the Calm, Pale Lungs and Looming

I've been reading Nick Mason's bio of Pink Floyd this week, and it's funny how in the last 50 years, not much has changed for young bands trying to make it. Last weekend, Denise and I saw Walk the Moon and Company of Thieves in a large Arena show at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Tonight, I took in a show at the other end of music hierarchy that featured some local bands playing a much smaller venue with a pair of young national touring bands.

Back in October, I reviewed the new album Seed by the band Looming. I basically liked the album, although I noted that the band's lead singer Jessica Knight has a voice that I find interesting and unique, but some people can't deal with. About two weeks ago, I was checking Looming's Facebook page, and I noted that they were scheduled to play on Long Island on January 25 at a venue I wasn't familiar with called The Amityville Music Hall. The full band wasn't coming along on this tour -- Knight and her bandmate Brandon Barnes were playing as a duo.

I really wanted to catch the full band, but I figured I might not get the chance to do that for awhile, so why not take advantage and at least catch an acoustic version of Looming playing close by. (I was wrong about the acoustic part, but more on that later).

I contacted the venue, and learned that while there weren't seats available, because of my age and situation, they'd make accommodations for me. It was scheduled to be a six band show, featuring four local bands plus Looming and Pale Lungs, a national touring band from Nashville, TN, so it was key I be able to sit -- I might have made it through Looming's set standing, if I knew exactly when they were going on (and knowing the music scene, how likely was that?). But I wouldn't have been able to make it through any of the other bands. In the end, the venue allowed me to bring in my own folding chair that I keep in my car trunk. I really appreciated them helping me out.

Now I was picturing either a VA type hall (this was, after all, a 16+ show), or maybe a venue like 89 North in Patchogue. But as I drove up and down Route 110 in Amityville, squinting to see address numbers, I didn't see anything like that. When I finally found the place, I realized why. It turned out that The Amityville Music Hall is a refurbished version of the old Wrong Way Inn!

Now those of you who have known me from the old Long Island Music Coalition days probably remember that in the first year of two of the LIMC's existence, with the possible exception of The Spot at SUNY Stonybrook, there was no other venue where we booked as many full-band LIMC shows as The Wrong Way Inn. It's fairly tiny for a music club. But it was home.

The place has been prettied up some -- there's now a raised stage, and a full sound booth in the back, and the upper part of the walls has what appears to be soundproofing. But other than that, it looks pretty much the same inside. Being there felt very familiar. I think I even ran into my own ghost.

By the time I got there, I had missed the first two bands, Casanova and Only Sibling, and a band called Smol Data was just finishing their set. All I can tell you about them was they were louder than I expected, and pretty interesting. They're a female-fronted shoegaze band from Islip. They didn't have any merch with them, but I know they have a demo up on bandcamp.com, and someone told me they have a new EP coming out soon.

The next band up was Crash the Calm. They've described themselves as combining grunge, alternative, post punk and ambient. I'd just go with "heavy alternative". They were actually quite good. The singer had a gruff voice that reminded me Vinny Caruana's (of I Am the Avalanche and The Movielife fame). I was pretty impressed by them. Before I left, I picked up a copy of their LP, How've You Been.

Next up was Pale Lungs. As I said earlier, they're a touring band from Nashville who I'd definitely classify as shoe gaze. Apparently, they've played the Amityville Music Hall before, and seem to be friends with Crash the Calm. They're also the ones who put the tour together, then invited Looming along. They have a new CD, also available on Bandcamp, called Strawberry. The thing that most impressed me about them was their dynamics -- they really know how to create quiet spaces between the waves of sound.

Now a few words about Looming. I introduced myself to Jessica and Brandon in between the Crash the Calm and Pale Lung sets. They explained to me how the tour had come about. We talked a little about the CD (I have a digital copy, but the hard copy has been back ordered on Amazon since October, which was news to them), and I explained to them how I first became a fan (from a review of their debut album Nailbiter in Alternative Press). And they actually gave me a free T-Shirt, which was super-nice ( I bought a second, so I'd have one for each of my kids). They also explained that although they were playing as a twosome on this tour, they were performing electric, not acoustic. They'd brought along some sampled percussion to fill out the sound a little. The full band will come back together for a brief tour of the East Coast with Tigers Jaw (although unfortunately, the closest they're coming to here is Providence).

What really impressed me is how hard they're working. Jessica mentioned that she's made music her full-time career right now, and they're actually driving with Pale Lungs for this tour. And they're having all of the experiences of hardworking touring musicians all over the world. For example, earlier today, they got into a slight car accident, and at the beginning of the set tonight, they had some equipment problems, etc. (All the same kind of things that Nick Mason talks about early Pink Floyd experiencing in his book). I hope that someday, they'll be where Company of Thieves and Walk the Moon were last Saturday -- playing large venues and maybe making some real money. But right now, they're paying their dues, although they seem to at least be enjoying the experience.

I enjoyed their set, although it wasn't a full Looming performance -- Jessica mentioned from the stage that she had been sick all day, although she was happy and excited to be playing the show. But the sampled percussion was very loud and echoey, so I didn't get to hear her voice as much as I'd have liked (actually, I thought the vocals were a little low in the mix for all of the bands, but especially for Looming.) Also, game though she was, by the end of their next-to-last song, I could hear her struggling with her vocals because of her illness. But I enjoyed their set regardless. (You can see the setlist at https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/looming/2018/amityville-music-hall-amityville-ny-33eea87d.html . They really created a wall of sound.

I was really glad I went tonight. It was fun meeting and talking with Looming, and seeing all four of the bands that I caught, and it was nice to see The Wrong Way operational again as the Amityville Music Hall. It's nice to be getting out and enjoying some live music these days.


Coming very soon: I've in the process of completing my Best of 2017 lists. Plus a review of the new album by Waterparks.