The first thing to note about the April 18 Eskimeaux and Frankie Cosmos show was that the Analog Theater’s air conditioning was broken. Combined with the 80-degree weather and the theater’s second floor perch, the show was stiflingly hot and humid and the all ages crowd was sweating profusely. Walking back up the stairs between acts, I was almost repulsed by the billowing cloud of muggy air. The second thing to note was that the sweltering atmosphere did nothing to dampen the spirits of anyone on stage or off. If anything, the shared misery brought the sold out crowd closer together.
Yowler, the solo project of Saintseneca’s Maryn Jones, kicked off the night with a quiet, introspective set that deserved a fairer listen in a more ventilated venue. But still, the young crowd that showed up early was quiet and appreciative, and Jones cast an impressive spell with her simple strumming and wounded voice.
Unlike her previous stop in Portland near the end of last year, Gabrielle Smith, a.k.a. Eskimeaux, brought the full band to the Analog Theater. The backing vocals, drums and full instrumentation were a welcome addition. Smith’s lyrics and voice carry a hefty punch, but her songs are also carefully orchestrated, building upon themselves toward rapture-inducing finales, or breaking apart midway through only to slowly put themselves back together. The band started their set with “Alone At The Party” one of Eskimeaux’s simpler, janglier songs from last year’s O.K., before launching into several songs from their just-released EP, The Year of the Rabbit.
The set then took a quieter turn with the initially hushed tones of “The Thunder Answered Back,” which has my vote for not only the best song Smith has yet recorded, but one of the best songs of 2015. Its live incarnation left nothing to be desired, a rapturous ode to confused love and the inevitable heartbreak. Greta Kline from Frankie Cosmos made a brief appearance to sing with Smith on “Year of The Rabbit,” and then the band ran through a number of other standouts from O.K. before finishing with the excellent, poignantly vulnerable “I Admit I’m Scared.”
Frankie Cosmos started their set with the first two songs from their new album Next Thing. “Floated In” is a perplexing song — sample lyric: “You know I’d love to rummage though your silky pink space car”— but it’s also a great example of the simple, stripped down oddball honesty that has earned Kline her fans. Ditto for “If I Had A Dog,” in which Kline wrings a message about accepting her body from a song ostensibly about taking pictures of a dog. A few songs in, Kline paused to inform us that during Yowler’s set, she had shat her pants backstage. She had briefly flirted with the idea of auctioning them off, she told us, before finally ditching them in the trash. It was weird, yes, but also quintessentially Kline.
A few songs later, for “Too Dark,” an older song, Smith — who also sings and plays keys in Frankie Cosmos — and bassist David Maine busted out some charming synchronized dance moves. The band finished with “Buses Splash With Rain,” which elicited a sing-along from the crowd. But the second Kline thanked the audience and left the stage, everyone fled into the comparative cool of the night.