(Mike Appelstein went to the Bloc Party show last night at the Pageant. I didn't go, as I was too tired from the week -- and since I love me some Bloc Party, you can imagine how tired I was. Did you go? Chime in in the comments -- but here's Mike's take on Smoosh.)
It’s not that unusual to witness a band’s artistic growth. It’s much more unusual to see literal growth, as in the band members actually getting taller. But I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see both when Seattle youngsters Smoosh opened for Bloc Party at the Pageant last night.
I first heard of Smoosh in 2003. It was just a couple of months before I moved to St. Louis. I was living in Seattle, where I occasionally DJed between bands at a local club. One night I volunteered to spin records for a Dub Narcotic Sound System show. Smoosh was opening; I'd never heard of them, but a quick Google search told me that they were actual children with a band. This was going to be their first proper show. They had an email address where you could order a free CD, so i wrote to them. A few days later, their mom stopped by our house and rang our doorbell to deliver the CD; it turned out they lived about five minutes away. In all my writing experiences, this was the first and only time that a band member's parent ever hand-delivered me something.
At the show, drummer Chloe played a tiny kit, while keyboardist Asya mumbled her lyrics and barely looked up from her keyboard. Shyness aside, it was obvious even then that Smoosh had actualtalent - they weren't just a cute gimmick.
We did an interview at their house a couple of weeks later. They were very shy and reticent, the way young children can be around strange adults. I think it was a little awkward for all of us. Not having had kids myself at that point, I didn't know how to make it more comfortable for them.
Of course, lots has changed for Asya and Chloe in four years. They've released two Smoosh CDs, the most recent on the uber-indie Barsuk label. They've toured worldwide, opening for the likes of Rilo Kiley and Mates of State. They've appeared on the Today show and, more recently, Nick Jr.'s new Yo! Gabba Gabba. They've become seasoned musical veterans, but only one of them is currently old enough to attend high school.
Last night was my first chance to catch up with Smoosh since those fateful events of early 2003. The first thing I noticed was what a drumming powerhouse Chloe has become. She is now a pint-size Keith Moon or Janet Weiss, hitting her kit hard and throwing in all kinds of creative accenting in the process. Meanwhile, Asya has become completely comfortable onstage. Apparently she cut her finger just before going on, so there was blood all over the keyboard. (Don't tell me Smoosh isn't rock and roll, folks.) Younger sister Maia now augments the basic duo for most songs; she plays xylophone and a bass that's bigger than she is. They had the poise and self-assurance of a band three times their age, and their songs had a loose but identifiable structure, with almost no overt influences whatsoever.
Bloc Party may have inspired the most vigorous crowd response, and Final Fantasy may have had the most elaborate visual presentation, but it was inspiring to see Smoosh more than hold their own against bands twice their age.
Of course, Asya didn't remember me or our interview when I saw her after the set. That makes sense, really. As children, most of us encountered unknown family friends and distant uncles telling us how they knew us when we were "this high." To us, they were virtual strangers, yet they seemed to know about every forgotten, embarrassing detail of our lives. It's awkward, almost a little condescending. Perhaps the members of Smoosh feel the same way when oldsters like me tell these kinds I-knew-them-when stories.