Review: Sophia Duccini, OK Sweetheart, and Lemolo at Neumos
Photo by Eric Tra
The stage at Neumos was appropriately dressed up in love this Valentine’s Day, with hearts and roses as a backdrop for a show full of love and camaraderie amongst three Seattle artists. When I am covering shows, I have a choice. I can enter the concert after doing research and gaining a sense of who each artist is before I review them or I can enter with fresh ears, no expectations and hope to be pleasantly surprised. There’s definitely risk in the latter approach, but I've made some of the greatest discoveries after attending live performances by artists I’ve never heard before. This was one of those shows for me. I did know one thing coming into the night. The headliner, Lemolo had no problem sharing their spotlight, celebrating the releases of their opening acts, Sophia Duccini and OK Sweetheart. Duccini playing through her first EP release and OK Sweetheart their first album release in years. To have three Seattle-based, womxn-led groups join in this girl power was enough to pique my interest and get me and my love out to Capitol Hill on the rainy evening.
The room was sparsely filled with friends, lovers, and others who looked to escape the cold when Sophia Duccini took the stage. Backed by only a guitarist and drummer, Duccini played through a set of lo-fi, dream-folk tracks, each holding a somber tone. The songs carried a melancholy message that you can now hear on her latest release Lies We Told. I immediately wished that the vocals were more clear, but I often find this to be the main criticism of any show I attend at Neumos. The venue’s concrete walls and floor paired with loud bass can fight against fragile voices. While some of the lyrics were lost in this fight, Duccini made up for this in her performance. Closing her eyes for most of the set, it was apparent that she lent herself to the truths she was singing while on stage.
As the sets transitioned, I went to grab another drink and hoped for the following artists to spark a little more energy in the crowd. Next a variation of the indie pop Seattle group, Ok Sweetheart took the stage to celebrate their sophomore release. Being that OK Sweetheart is the artistic moniker of Erin Austin, the lead singer-songwriter grabbed the crowd’s attention in an illuminescent white dress and red pump heels. While she has made Seattle home for the past few years, Austin still embodies a Southern aura in both appearance and in her conversationalist approach to sharing her songs. If you are familiar with her latest single’s cover art, you see these same shoes contrasted against jagged rocks of the shores off the iconic Washington coast.
It’s been eight years since the group released any music with only one album to stand testament to any brand. Within that amount of time the music industry has evolved within the modern world of technology, with social media and music streaming services hosting millions of sound (and look) alikes. It is essential for an artist to find and embrace what sets them apart from others. This distinction is especially important within a genre as broad as indie-pop, and while this distinction should be set sonically for an artist, wardrobe can aid in catching an audience member’s eye. For Austin, this began with her shoes.
It is clear in Austin’s demeanor that she is determined to make this plunge back into the music scene where she has been silent for so long. She carries with her the demeanor of an experienced vocalist and performer and has arranged an album that explains her journey back to the stage. This intentionality was lost at times in the rest of the musicians who joined her: where Austin brings a certain energy and performance to the stage, they lurked in the shadows without much physical movement or visible connection to the parts they were playing. That is until about halfway through the set when they kicked things up a notch with “We Can Do It”. This was the first song where Austin’s seering vocals were fully supported by the instrumentation and the crowd responded, getting lost in the song and bursting into cheers at the end. It was clear this was the climax of the band’s set, where they won over anyone skeptical in the crowd. Even for a moment they had the crowd in the palm of their hand and as an artist, that’s all you can really hope for on stage. As they prepare to tour their new album, I am sure that their performance and sound will be strengthened and developed to achieve more of these moments, getting closer to recreating the magic they made in the studio.
By the end of their set, Neumos was packed and ready for the headliner Lemolo. The principal member of the group is another singer-songwriter Meagan Grandall, who has been in the Seattle scene for years. Joined again by Sophia Duccini, the crowd was prepped and ready for the dream-pop group to let loose on stage. Mixing electronic patterns and real instrumentation, Lemolo was visibly and sonically the most dynamic group of the night. Grandall’s ethereal vocals pierced through whatever sound barriers struck the opening artists, and conveyed many emotions with varying levels of energy. Grandall did not sit still during her set and switched between different instruments and themes, showcasing her many talents.
The most memorable part of the night came at the middle of Lemolo’s set when Duccini and Grandall covered Radiohead’s “Creep”, flushed out with gorgeously somber harmonies. The crowd sang along as if we were participating in the hippest, cathartic karaoke session. Grandall is a natural on stage and allowed the crowd to feel this level of comfortability and connection to the music, where she excelled in her performance while simultaneously inviting everyone to sing along. Following lots of applause, she took a moment to invite a couple of her visiting friends on stage to complete a raffle. While a lucky audience member received Grandall’s personal copy of their latest LP that had been hidden away in her closet, the raffle gave way to the biggest surprise of the evening.
Grandall’s friends who she invited on stage quickly took focus and answered the question running through everybody’s minds: What Valentine’s day is complete without a proposal? As one partner got down on her knee, she carried out a sweet, unconventional proposal that rocked the crowd to cheers once again. The rest of the night was history and Lemolo carried out the rest of their set as a true celebration of love.
Photo by Eric Tra