Originally posted on September 19, 2008
With a soulful and tender, Jim Croce-esque voice, Maine’s Micah Blue Smaldone sat alone with his guitar on the Mercury Lounge stage Friday night. Picking skillfully away at folky, mostly strophic songs, with a melancholy reminiscent of Chad Vangaalen, Smaldone charmed a seated audience with his intimate performance style and stage presence, admitting at one point he “only got an hour’s sleep last night, ‘cause I got ants in my pants.” He ended with an impassioned cover of “Row, Fisherman, Row,” before setting up to play bass in the next band, Rhode Island’s Death Vessel.
A name like Death Vessel can only mean one thing for a band’s sound: a blend of folk, indie rock, and rockabilly; and, of course, a lead singer with an uncannily beautiful high voice. One song featured a bass line out of a Western; another, adventurous melodic interactions between the guitars. “Bruno’s Torso” featured a sweet vocal melody, bursting into life during the choruses with heavy snare work. There was a surprising amount of completely dead air in between the songs, which turned out to be kind of refreshing. The band went full on hillbilly when one of the guitarists picked up a banjo and the bassist (playing an upright bass) put down his bow to finger-pluck. Another song was country-styled for the choruses, while the verses were rhythmically free and aleatoric sounding. Check out Death Vessel for the lovely and unusual.