Matt Crowley/The AS Review
There will be no shortage of entertainment at Western this week, with two Underground Coffeehouse shows and the annual Higginson Festival of Music (HigFOM – see page 5) bringing a multitude of bands through campus. At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, The Spencer Goll Band will open for Seattle folksters Noah Gunderson and The Courage. Two days later, on Friday, May 7 at 8 p.m., experimentalists Garage Voice will play the Coffeehouse, followed by HigFOM on Saturday, May 8, beginning at 3 p.m.
Noah Gundersen, along with his sister Abby, started NG and TC in late 2005 in Centralia, Wash. The band is led by the siblings, along with Ivan Gunderson (no relation) and Travis Ehrentrom. Despite their small beginnings, a tour of Washington and Oregon left the group with a burgeoning fan base. Noah Gundersen recorded his first album, “Brand New World” and released it in 2008.
“They had connections with The Spencer Goll Band, who we originally booked,” ASP Underground Coffeehouse Assistant Coordinator Lora Mednick said. “We thought it would be a good show and it kind of worked out through the network.”
Since then the band has released two albums and seen their popularity skyrocket. “Saints & Liars,” their most recent album, has been hailed by numerous local publications, including Seattle Weekly. However, the band has been relatively dormant during 2010. They hope to resume touring this summer.
ASP Underground Coffeehouse Coordinator Nick Duncan isn’t lying when he says NG and TC is very much “in-line” with the atmosphere of the Coffeehouse. Reviews of “Saints & Liars” pelted Gundersen with comparisons to Pedro the Lion, Damien Rice and even the late Jeff Buckley. Personally, I think that’s a little much. But it shouldn’t discredit the fact that like those artists, Gundersen does an excellent job of conveying emotion. Gundersen isn’t afraid to bring religion into the mix as well, and much like Pedro the Lion and Jeff Buckley, he is able to use it to his advantage without alienating those who aren’t religious.
The Spencer Goll Band will open for NG and TC, bringing light pop rock in the vein of ’90s bands like Yo La Tengo and The Weakerthans. Leader Spencer Goll certainly evokes shades of The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson, straining his voice with every syllable.
Their first album, “Something New,” was released in 2008. The band is currently working on releasing their second album, “This Time Tomorrow,” sometime in May.
“They played for the Noise Pollution Club and were well received,” Mednick said. Goll attended Western before transferring to the University of Washington this quarter and many members of the band have played open mics at the Coffeehouse as well.
Friday’s act, Garage Voice, looks like what would happen if Fleet Foxes went to an Ivy League school. Despite the fact that they look like Vampire Weekend, the melodies, whisper-like cymbal crashes and grungy guitar progressions of a Northwest folk band are all there.
“I really like how poppy they are,” Mednick said. “It’s interesting that they are from Seattle. … Not living there, I’m curious to see how they are received there. They should find a good audience here in Bellingham.”
In “Loud as Miracles,” comparisons to Fleet Foxes are certainly deserved. An instrument-less three-part melody opens the song, pleading “Lord, I wanna be gracious, let this blind man see.” As the guitars groan their way into the song, the melody continues, building before a Woodstock-worthy solo a third of the way into the song. It’s like Woodstock, but with more flannel.
Again, religious themes are prevalent in Garage Voice’s music. But much in the way other folk bands use similar themes, the end result is far from Creed-status worshipping. Instead, references to Jesus and the Bible convey messages of faith and doubt without being too preachy.
The band just released their third album, “Freeze and Thaw,” and are currently touring the lower West Coast before heading back north. The album was recorded last summer during one of the hottest recorded weeks in Seattle’s history in a home with closed windows and no fans.
There is only a month left of shows, so enjoy them while you can. As always, they are free and open to the public.