Somerville’s own Gem Club sold out Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts on January 31st, in celebration of their second album, In Roses, released that day via the label Hardly Art.
Dirty Projectors member Nat Baldwin, looking a bit like a younger Hugh Dancy, opened the show effortlessly playing the hell out of the upright bass. Having previously worked with Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend, Baldwin was the perfect choice to kick off the night and lead us into a mesmerizing performance art presentation by Brianna Olson. As Olson stayed back in the shadows, prominently featured was Michael Pope, award-winning underground filmmaker and multi-media artist (you may recognize them from his long history of video directing and her producing with Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls), bedecked in all white make-up and apparel, save the blood-red flower in his mouth. I don’t think I blinked once, for fear of missing one bit of artistic perfection.
Gem Club – Christopher Barnes, Kristen Drymala, and Ieva Berberian – took the stage to the eager applause of a full house. The trio played In Roses in its entirety, only taking a brief moment to tell a short story then thank everyone for coming. With the entire set accompanied by eagle-eyed projections of bold, beautiful tiger lilies (my personal favorite), roses, crystal-clear melting ice, sweeping plumes of smoke, and prismatic hues across a large screen, combined with the unique venue, it made for one of the most unique CD release events I’ve encountered. Perhaps my favorite backdrop motif of the night – two glitter-sodden hands aglow, grasping, reaching, yearning – occurred during their final song, “Polly” – the undulation of ghostly and divinely delectable music wrapping the evening up befittingly. The band is a refreshing break from all of the unnervingly cliche and similar-sounding artists you encounter on every corner and radio station – Gem Club is truly a diamond in the rough (pun kind of intended). Eleven delectable, heart-wrenching, ethereal songs later, the projections faded out and the house lights came up, encouraging us to be on our way, with those beautiful strokes of color filling our heads and hearts. I left feeling sanguine and overflowing with inspiration; Gem Club’s music will get under your skin, pull at your heartstrings, and send you off into the world anew – an atypical experience one mustn’t miss out on.
Wow. That’s what Sirsy does at every gig – they wow. Since their inception in 2000, these Upstate New York natives have delivered the same non-stop rock ‘n roll mastery – without exception – at each of their nearly 300 gigs performed annually (yes, really). One look at their website’s hefty list of upcoming tour dates shows you just how dedicated this band is.
Taking the stage at Johnny D’s, Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti’s energy is contagious – unmistakably they love what they do. Have I mentioned that Krahmer and Libutti are the band, yet sound like a group of six? That’s right – these two people make some gigantic sounds; if you close your eyes, you would swear it were a full-sized band. Krahmer plays a drum kit standing up, with a small keyboard to the side, while singing and also playing flute, meanwhile Libutti changes it up between bass and lead guitar. It’s enough to make Sirsy neophytes drop their drinks, do a double-take – and then immediately fall in love.
The band played a good selection from their recent release, “Coming Into Frame” – including fan favorites “Cannonball” (have you seen their uber-creative video?), “Lionheart” (which has another picturesque video), and oldie-but-goodie request “Dry.” On stage, the lively duo are chatty, amiable, and open – all the while staying focused and magnificent, with Krahmer’s voice sometimes hitting such tremendous growling depths it stops you in your tracks. The perfect compliment to Krahmer, Libutti makes his intricate guitar riffs seem effortless – at one point even walking out into the middle of the room to play amid a gaggle of fans, of course never breaking a sweat.
Over the years, Sirsy has opened for Maroon 5, Ra Ra Riot, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Cheap Trick, and a plethora of other well-known artists. Having played in 43 of the 50 states hasn’t exactly hurt their notoriety amongst these headliners, yet just seeing one of their performances should be enough to show that Sirsy is substantially too marvelous to not be selling out venues larger than Johnny D’s. Sirsy’s songs are incomparable – even after five original albums (not including multiple live recordings, plus a holiday collection) – and both Mel and Rich have talent for days; you’ll never find another band to compare them to.
It was hard to come down from the Sirsy high when the show was over, but knowing they toured roughly 62,000 miles across the United States in 2013, you know you haven’t seen, nor heard, the last of them and that this is just a few more miles on their journey to becoming a sought-after headliner in their own right.