San Francisco Bathhouse
May 30 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

Grayson Gilmour is a performer who needs to perform more solo. Maybe with a grand piano, or at least a baby grand. But I guess that would be too showy for him, the flamboyance with which So So Modern performance is replaced with a demureness when Gilmour performs solo. But his tunes are something – thunderous piano riffs and torn guitar work, lulls and carnage, and a melodic, fragile voice. It’s impressive singer-songwriter material, but a singer-songwriter who’s attacking the conventions while almost apologising for stealing our time we spend listening to it. He’s a restless musician too, driving somewhere but not really sure where he’s heading, pushing his music along without ever seeming lost. He’s adding to his burgeoning barrel of releases with another EP on June 2, and his constant noodling and experimenting suggest there’ll be plenty more opportunities for Gilmour to divert an audience’s attention.

The night was opened by Paper ghost, in what was the artist’s first show. His idiosyncratic music is hard to describe – ambient soundscapes, fragile melodies and occasional bursts of noise. And it was absolutely beautiful. A tighter sound-mix would assist, and his confidence on the mic will no doubt improve as he performs more, but this was a performance which suggests his music deserved to be shouted about a lot more. His recorded stuff is top-notch too if his myspace page is anything to go by too.

Kitten Et Me (a solo offshoot of Peneloping with Kirsten LeStat) took to the stage with twee and unconventionality. The night’s trend of shy performer continued with Kitten et Me. A little more variation would have assisted the sound from meandering a bit too much, and more use could have been made of the drums which were at times, a tad superfluous. However, there’s an offbeat melodic sense, and the tweeness manages to just remain on the charming side (rather than the cloying side).

The precocious Seth & Merle are starting to get some props in Wellington, having opened for the likes of Beirut. They continued the unconventional sounds of the night, the three-piece being a banjo, guitar and keyboards (among other things), creating a very pleasant and winning sound. The keyboards were too low on the mix during the performance and probably needed to do a bit more, as they were lost in the banjo/guitar interplay. Vocalist Sean Kelly’s voice is unexpectedly fragile and charming though, and was arresting. The band has an excellent pop sensibility with mellifluous melodies and arrangements, and with a strong drive/focus, they’ve got the potential to push their music into something quite beautiful. It was an eclectic night of performers, a roster of winning indie pop musicians from the city who are demonstrating that you don’t need to bash someone on the head to win them over.