Review: Great Northern @ Larimer Lounge
Chris Adolph of Bad Weather California sat alone in a folding chair on the stage of the Larimer, in front of an all but empty room, bathed in green light. “I’m going to pretend this room is full,” he said and then started playing.
Adolph stumbled over and through a mixture of originals and covers in an angry, hollering, hard country style, punctuating the songs with a weird mix of anecdotes, apologies and half-joking asides. He had to abandon several songs partway through and gave up on others before he even started.
By all rights it should have been abysmal. But it wasn’t. In the moments where it worked, and there were plenty of them, his playing and singing sounded good and resonated on an emotional level. He ended on a pretty strong point, a political hootenanny aimed squarely at W. That inclined me to see him again under better circumstances.
Hello Kavita came on short a drummer and a guitarist. Faced with such conditions, some bands might have just bailed. Instead the remaining members just played as they were and the results were exquisite, even if unintentional.
Lacking the grounding thump of drums, and half their guitar weight, their music shifted into an ethereal realm. The remaining guitar, bass, violin and pedal steel sounds seemed to float through the room as liquid gossamer, melting around each other constantly. Singer Corey Teruya’s smooth voice and controlled delivery was perfectly complemented by the music. The drumless/low guitar version of Hello Kavita created something like ambient country, and it’s lovely.
The first two sets of the night had a casual, informal feeling. Porlolo continued the mood by recruiting Adolph on guitar and Kavita’s violinist for parts of their set. “We’re hosting an impromptu jam session,” said Erin Roberts, the guitar and voice of Porlolo. If the newly constructed band slipped a few times, it didn’t seem to matter. Roberts’s distinctively gorgeous voice and haunting songs were ample distraction from a bit of technical sloppiness and a few fluffed notes. For her closing song, she sent the band away and played her guitar and trumpet through a looping delay, creating a handy accompaniment for herself. As she added layer after layer of trumpet it eventually sounded like an army of woozy brass players creating a wall of sound. Then it was gone in a second, and after a few minimal guitar strums so was Porlolo.
Great Northern closed out the meeting with a solid set of energetic and accomplished rock-fueled pop. In sharp contrast to the friendly, rough-around-the-edges vibe of the night, Great Northern revved up the evening with a slick sound, well-rehearsed set and overall professionalism.
Of course, all the professionalism in the world doesn’t mean shit if you don’t have any tunes. Great Northern had tunes, catchy, danceable and rocking tunes, frequently all at once. Their sound revolves around contrasting electric piano and shoegaze guitars on a base of powerful drums and sexy bass lines. Throw in an excellent male and female vocalist and it’s a recipe for a really enjoyable band and a great end to the evening. --Cory Casciato