We Love Music: Jeremy Messersmith @ DC9, 6/19/11

courtesy of J. Messesmith.

It is unusual for me to go to a show of a band I’ve never heard before and be swept off my feet. That happened Sunday night when Jeremy Messersmith and his band played DC9.

From the first song, “Novocain,” off of his first album Alcatraz Kid, it was clear there was something special happening. This song, like much of his music, has a dichotomy of upbeat music paired with melancholic lyrics or morose subject matter. Listening to “Novocain” makes you want to bop your head and maybe even dance, while Messersmith sings of his heartbreak “There ain’t enough Novocain to numb my broken heart.” I love that.

Onstage Messersmith looked dapper; his good looks framed with Buddy Holly glasses, wearing a dark jacket, white pants and sneakers. He was backed by his touring band of three very talented young gentlemen: a drummer, guitarist and cellist/keyboard/bass player.

The music sounded overall very sixties-inspired. When they played the melodic, poppy “Lazy Bones” I was reminded of The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The blend of sharp snare, bouncing keys, infectious melody and lovely harmonies was uplifting.  My next favorite moment in the set was the spooky, beautiful chamber-pop piece “Organ Donor.”  Here cellist Ben Rosenbush delivered gorgeous flourishes and tremeloes, bringing the sound to a new lush level.

One of the set’s most intimate moments came when drummer and guitarist dropped out, leaving Messersmith and Rosenbush to play a soft and delicate rendition of “A Girl, A Boy, And A Graveyard,”  off of his latest album The Reluctant Graveyard.  The song had about a third of the audience singing along quietly to the chorus.

Another highlight of the night included “Violet!”, which brought to mind another Monkees song, “Daydream Believer.” (Maybe I just have Monkees on the brain?) The song started out simply with staccato  piano and laid-back vocals, and crescendoed into an enthusiastic chorus/grand ending full of vocal harmonies, electric guitar ornamentations and bouncing bass.  

Messersmith ended his main set with the quiet, lovely love song “Tattooine.” His fans wouldn’t let him get away so easily though, so he let the rest of his band exit the stage and played an encore by himself. It included “Virginia” from his 2009 album The Silver City, and as a farewell for the evening the sweet, hopeful “Tomorrow.”

Only time, and repeated listenings of his new album The Reluctant Graveyard (which I purchased after the show) will tell if this is just infatuation or true love.

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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