Seattle Living Room Shows’ last event of 2013, an evening featuring three fantastic bands from along the West Coast – Austin Hartley-Leonard, Joseph (formerly Dearborn) and St Paul de Vence – brought this year’s season of Seattle Living Room Shows and Seattle Secret Shows to a close with a perfectly in tune, three-part-harmony-croon-of-a-bang.
The performance took place in what used to be Twilight Lounge in Bell Town – a modern, geometrically ambiguous space with exposed rafters and walls composed almost entirely from glass – an effect that made me feel as though I was seated in a high-fashion, holiday bedazzled, futuristic greenhouse. I think I speak for all when I say it’s too bad the Twilight Lounge had to move, but we are secretly thankful we got the opportunity to witness a Seattle Living Room Show in this amazing space.
Much like last month’s event with Bradford Loomis, I had specifically asked to attend the evening’s concert so that I could see, and write about, some of my good friends – the skilled members of St. Paul de Vence – perform live. I had never seen the evening’s other two artists, Austin Hartley-Leonard and Joseph, but much like every other musician to whom I’ve been introduced at Kristen and Carrie Watt’s events, they, to to put it candidly, blew my mind.
The night started off with Austin Hartley-Leonard – a singer/songwriter who began his solo career in Austin, Texas, and now serves at the frontman for lo-fi Cali-pop group, Broken Anchor. For the evening’s event, however, Austin had flown up to Seattle by himself, rented a very classy 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse (what he called his “sweet ‘bishi”), and arrived at the venue ready to play his first solo show in quite some time.
Aside from being inarguably hilarious, Austin holds his own when onstage by himself – a feat many solo performers fall shy of achieving. He has a husky baritone voice, a charismatic stage presence, and writes music that clearly transcends genre. Throughout his 30-minute set I detected hybrids of folk, punk rock, alt-country, and several other influences I could not quite put my finger on. Somehow, however, all of his influences seemed to come together into one cohesive sound that was familiar, and yet still interesting and fresh.
The next group of the evening was Joseph –a trio comprised of sisters Natalie, Allie, and Meegan Closner, from Portland, Oregon. Formerly known as Dearborn, the group was formed in June of 2012 after Natalie “got wise”, as she put it, and decided to add her two twin sisters to her solo project. These three women not only write beautiful, soul-infused folk with honest lyrics, they also have the best vocal blend I have heard in years. Although they typically sing three-part harmony, the group occasionally fell into unison during the course of their set– forcing me to look at each of their mouths to make sure that more than one person was singing.
During the course of Joseph’s performance, I peered around the room, as I am want to do, and saw audience members turning to each other, wide-eyed and smiling, clearly admiring what they were hearing. As the group’s set came to a close and the women prepared to leave the stage, the crowd rose to their feet in protest. Fortunately, Carrie and Kristen Watt were stationed at the back of the room and signaled that the band still had a few more minutes to fill. The trio began singing again and the crowd cheered and reclaimed their seats – clearly happy to wait a few more minutes before refilling their glasses over intermission.
As always, intermission was a buzz of activity– everyone seemed to be enthusiastically talking to someone else about the evening’s performances. During those 15 minutes I found myself chatting with St. Paul de Vence’s drummer, Jonny Gundersen; catching up with the Watt sisters and local musician Sarah Gerritsen; and shaking hands with the founder of Seattle Music Insider, Greg Roth. Before long the lights were blinking and I found myself among those hurrying to get back to their seats before the evening’s main attraction, St Paul de Vence, took the stage.
If someone asked me to use one word to describe Seattle folk-pop band St Paul de Vence, I believe I would choose“sincere”. St Paul’s five members, Benjamin Doerr, Mike Sievers, Lydia Ramsey, Kale Lotton, and Jonny Gundersen; are some of the most genuine people I’ve met in the city. Seattle Living Room Show’s sound engineer, Ben DeVore, even described St. Paul’s frontman, Ben Doerr, as “quite possibly the kindest man [he’d] ever met”.
St Paul’s style, from image to sound, is also completely their own. Many of the band’s songs are very personal; reflecting on Doerr’s grandfather’s time as a soldier in the Free French Army during World War II. The band’s music reminds me very much of flipping through the dusty pages of a photo album. Doerr’s lyrics are thoughtful, exposing, and, well, very sincere; and the band’s presentation of the tunes, from tight harmonies to fervent instrumental solos, is cohesive and passionate.
During the course of their set, St Paul played old favorites and introduced the room to some of the beautiful new material that will be on their second full-length album. Thanks to many of you, the band just successfully reached their Kickstarter goal and is now in the process of “making a real big kids’ recording”, as Doerr put it. According to Doerr, we should expect to have the new full-length album in our hot little hands around Spring of 2014.
So there you have it, folks – another fantastic evening and the conclusion of another fantastic year with Seattle Living Room Shows! Keep your eyes and ears open for upcoming events in the New Year – some very exciting events are already in the works.
Don’t miss the next show on Saturday, February 22nd with Gabriel Mintz, Mike Dumovich, and Penny and Sparrow at a secret SODO location!
Get your tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/572704
Must use password: slrs222
Cheers and thanks for reading!