It could only be fate that gave me the opportunity to review Mr. Gnome two years ago on Halloween at Bar Deluxe, because since then I have become a maniacal, dance-around-the-livingroom fan. It’s a true love story like no other; I found one of my favorite bands while partying next to a male Princess Leia with a beer belly and The Muppets. Having just completed a tour that included a stop at SXSW, Mr. Gnome graced this salty, allergy cloud of a city with an aerobic and intimate show at Urban Lounge.
Oh, Urban Lounge and your fresh crop of 21-year-old self-important hipsters. I can describe tonight’s crowd in one sentence: for the first time in my life, I heard someone order “a beer.” A BEER, a Beer, ‘A beer’? I’m so confused! I reflect on the last decade or so of the amazing acts I’ve seen and gallons of alcohol I’ve purchased at this fine establishment as I make my way to a dark corner and realize how much I hated my 20s. I may come to some wonderful realization tonight about the meaning of my life and existence in general, stuck to the beautiful floor.
Heaps & Heaps start off with what sounds like the theme from 90210. I feel like this band gets together and plays “show and tell what song you wrote over the weekend and we’ll play it.” There’s no common thread running through this band except the shrill shrieks of the unfortunate lead singer. One moment they sound like Feist, then the next like a baby seal being eaten alive. I do have to say, though, as much as it pains my cynical nature to admit it, this band genuinely seem to enjoy playing together. Later I realize their problem while they are tearing down as the drummer carries a cinder block with his percussion equipment. “A cinder block does not a snare drum make.”
I’ve heard Mr. Gnome described as “psychedelic,” which I think is how people describe bands they can’t describe. Naturally, one would compare Mr. Gnome to another two-piece band. Visually, a two-piece band is usually nothing too exciting on stage but imagine cramming nine musicians into two people—that’s Mr. Gnome. They pack the loudness, visionary dreaminess, and breadth of a full band while remaining intimate with the audience. One of the best things about Mr. Gnome is watching people try to dance to their ever-changing tempo. They begin with the guitar swells of “Cleveland Polka.” Singer/guitarist Nicole Barille stands with her hair almost completely covering her face while drummer Sam Meister beats the living shit out of his drum kit. All chatter in the room is ended when people adjust their mustaches and try to figure out how to dance to the chainsaw love-song as Barille wails “Let’s set it off!”
Next, they play one of my favorites: “Night of the Crickets” from Deliver This Creature, a gentle whisper of a song that is sweet, emotional and full of violence at the same time. Barille then pummels the poor crowd with “Plastic Shadow” after a brief moment of recovery from the first attack. Her guitar tone is at once warm then sharp and intruding into everyone’s attempt to hold a conversation. They transition smoothly from “Run for Cover” to “Bit of Tongue” as people pick their mustaches up off the floor and try to figure out how to dance to this song, awkwardly shuffling from swinging slow tempo to godspeed. Someone forgets there’s a railing around the dance floor and plows through my life to make it closer to the stage, disintegrating my ankle like chalk. With a puff of smoke, my ankle is gone and so is the culprit. Barille’s voice pierces through the ankle-dust, the goddamn stink of someone’s BO and another’s offensive cologne, and the inane chatter with “House of Circles,” and I forget about my once-normal-sized ankle. I continue observing drunks in their natural habitat feeling a bit like David Attenborough peering between trees the rest of the set.
Playing through a sprinkle of solid tracks from their discography with a similar setlist to their last show in SLC, the new track played stood out as a beautiful, bluesy respite from the hits. Hopefully we’ll be rewarded with a single off the upcoming album soon, as it was due out this spring but has been pushed back to fall. Afterwards, I introduce myself to Nicole at the merch booth like a gushing schoolgirl asking her crush to fucking Sadie Hawkins.