Alan Sparhawk of Low. Photo: Alex Pow
I knew I was in for a quiet and relaxing show, so I decided to focus more on finding a comfortable place to sit instead of wandering around the stage to get pictures like I normally do. Velour was packed; I’ve only seen so many people in this venue at one of Velour’s high-energy shows. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised at how many people were there––it was Low––but it also seemed like a lot of people were there because locals The Moth & The Flame opened the show.
I snapped a few photos of The Moth & The Flame during their first song, which I like to call “The Cell Phone Song” because Brandon Robbins starts off by playing a voice message through his guitar pickups and continues to strum with the phone until the end of his song, when he takes another cell phone and sings with both of them near the mic for some really cool feedback. Typically a duo of Brandon Robbins on guitar and Mark Garbett on keyboard, TM&TF had an additional member with a snare drum and some electronics. Robbins’ singing took a while to grow on me, but I’ve begun to appreciate how spectacularly he uses his voice. It’s as if he’s reluctantly choking out the lyrics, which makes their cold, delicate songs just sound more sincere. As part of their online video series,The Occidental Saloon filmed TM&TF’s video on the frozen Utah Lake, and the band has appropriately adopted this aesthetic for much of their promotional material.
They finished their set with “All Right” (that’s another guess at a song title, but this one is probably correct) and had the crowd sing “all right” over and over for much of the song; I was surprised at how many people actually sang along and how alluring Robbin’s vocals sounded over the crowd’s singing. Earlier in their set, Robbin said, “You have been the most attentive audience we’ve ever played for;” that was something else that struck me about this show: everyone was silent and respectful for both TM&TF and Low without any shushing.
I moved from my very comfortable seat on the couch (where I couldn’t see the stage at all) to a stool on the same side of the stage that Alan Sparhawk was setting up his equipment. Of course, this ended up being the same side of the stage that had at least three men shooting video of the concert the entire time. The stage was decorated with little round lamps, and this is one of the things I love about low-key shows at Velour. The staff often decorate the stage or entire venue to ensure each one is a different experience. With those bulbs surrounding them, Low started off their set and I was so glad I sat near Sparhawk, because I could see just how he was using the whammy bar and five guitar pedals to get some of the coolest sounds I’ve ever heard out of a guitar. Mimi Parker’s sultry voice and heavy drumbeats started to really get to me, and my eyelids felt pretty thick, so I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes right before Sparhawk announced, “This next song is called ‘Try To Sleep.’ Try not to.” I covered my mouth so no one would see me yawning at the end of that sweet lullaby, but that’s not to say I was bored; it was so mesmerizing that I felt like I had to sleep right at that moment.
I wondered if Low ever get sick of touring and playing these relatively small clubs after doing it for about 15 years, but then I caught Sparhawk fervently mouthing along to the “boom, boom, thud” of the bass-line when he stepped away from the microphone––which showed me that he was enjoying this. As the band finished, everyone in the venue started screaming and clapping for more, and until then I had almost forgotten how many people were in the venue with me. Never before have I been surrounded by such a considerate crowd, and they all cheered when the band came out to play a couple more songs. They finished with “Dinosaur Act,” and I left the show feeling calm and lucky to have seen such a prolific band.