Sean Scanlon, vocalist of Smallpools (photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival)
Day three of the Firefly Music Festival on Saturday, June 21, focused mostly on new bands for me — finding such new bands always is the strength of well-organized festivals.
My day began with Smallpools, a quartet from Los Angeles, and their catchy pop songs on the Firefly backyard stage. Smallpools have not yet released a full-length album, but their most popular single, Dreaming (from a self-titled EP) is a very neo-psychedelic dance number that smacks of Foster the People and Passion Pit, as many others have observed. Vocalist Sean Scanlon demonstrated a good sense of humor when recounting a protest email the band once received about its name. Apparently, someone was unhappy that Smallpools would celebrate “small pools,” which are not healthy for killer whales. In response, the band named a new song “Killer Whale.”
Smallpools open for Neon Trees in a show at the 9:30 Club on July 13, but it’s already sold out sadly!
David Lowery brought both of his bands, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, to the 9:30 Club Saturday night for a mellow night of clever wordplay and occasional social jabs that form the crux of the music in the two outfits.
Billed as the “Come Down the Coast” tour, Lowery’s double bill came very close to selling out the 9:30 Club, which was comfortably full of high-spirited concert-goers, nodding their heads along to very full sets of alt-country ruminations and reflections. Camper Van Beethoven played 18 songs, beginning with the oddly titled instrumental “ZZ Top Goes to Egypt.” It was a good way to set the tone actually, introducing the audience to quirky titles and various musical textures that go into Camper Van Beethoven compositions
As Lowery sang and strummed along softly, drummer Frank Funaro added some punk-flavored kick, and violinist Jonathan Segel filled out many of the songs with classical flourishes. Funaro, who also is in Cracker, was the only person in the five-member Camper Van Beethoven who was not in the original lineup. Nevertheless, Camper Van Beethoven classics like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” now have less of a jangly sound to them when performed live these days and more layers and sophistication instrumentally.
When I was an undergrad, “Low” by Cracker was absolutely inescapable on college radio. As a concert newbie, I ended up seeing one of my first shows off-campus during a visit to Salisbury, Md., where some friends and I caught a bill that included Cracker, Gin Blossoms and Spin Doctors (hey, I was young).
But my musical tastes always have run to being a bit more subversive in general. And so I was surprised to learn lately that Cracker’s lead singer founded another, perhaps more subversive, band–Camper Van Beethoven. Vocalist and guitarist David Lowery (who also is a mathematician!) fronts Camper Van Beethoven, as he did before, after and now while also singing in Cracker. And this Saturday at the 9:30 Club, he has the luxury of opening for himself as Camper Van Beethoven takes the stage before Cracker!
In 2013, Camper van Beethoven released a new album, La Costa Perdida, and they are sure to perform new songs like the title track or “Northern California Girls”–an allusion to Cracker’s home as well as the Beach Boys–and some of their classics, like “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” Cracker released their last album, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, in 2009, but the band also has been working on new songs. Join me and hear it all in one spot!
w/ Camper Van Beethoven
Saturday, Jan. 11