With Capitol Hill awash in block-party chaos, Fremont was like some magical fairy land--slow and sleepy, an island on a time of its own. On this note Jeremy Messersmith and his four-piece band took the stage at the High Dive, taking their time setting up after openers the Thoughts and the Lowlands. It was a modest turnout for all the tweaking and tuning--about 50 people lining both sides of the venue--but with nothing but time on their side, the group took full advantage of it.
The strategy worked; from the start of the clipped strum on "Novacain," Messersmith had a tight ensemble on his hands. With warm vocals recalling Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith, the front man alternated between bass and guitar while another player traded off at bass, cello, and keys. Aided by a drummer and another guitarist, songs like "Deathbed Salesman," "Dillinger Eyes," and "Tatooine" (his love song to the Star Wars franchise), were rich, well-crafted melodies, infused with '60s Baroque pop styling, reverby guitar, and Beatlesque refrains.
Underlying the punchy time changes and airy whistling (there was a bit of that) was a dark, contemplative lyricism. Messersmith's newest album, The Reluctant Graveyard, definitely has a "final destination" theme to it, but like any songwriter worth his weight, Messersmith is particularly well-suited at making it palatable for the listener. Somehow I couldn't help tapping my foot when he sang "Could you pass me the needle?"
Overhead at the show: Jeremy Messersmith: "I don't know who shows up to a Jeremy Messersmith show, but I hope they're fans of Star Wars and the Magnetic Fields."
Goes well with: Sondre Lerche, the Beatles, Belle and Sebastian.