If the Fremont Abbey and its team are known for anything, it’s for finding new visions for how we see intimate shows in Seattle. For a singular example, earlier this year, the Abbey hosted Baltimore dream pop band Beach House for the smallest show the band has put on in Seattle almost a decade. Shows at the Abbey tend to have this impact – forcing the artist and observer to both treasure the fragility of the moment, not letting a second of it go to waste. But with the Abbey’s ongoing Cathedrals series, they somehow find a way to invert the formula to have a similar effect. Held on top of Capitol Hill at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Pacific Northwest bands have time and time again been given the opportunity to play with the best acoustics they’ve ever messed with. But more than that, with the pews full up with onlookers who may not otherwise get a chance to witness the sheer beauty of the space (such as at the Sunday night Compline service famously open to the public), the richness of the PNW music scene feels elevated to celestial heights. Tonight marks the 15th outing of the series, and for the milestone, the folks at the Abbey put together one incredible lineup. Seattle electronic duo NAVVI kicked the night off with a stripped down take on their signature driving sound, followed by the lush arrangements of Portland indie pop act Loch Lomond. Finally, closing the night was an extra special set from one of our favorites, Lemolo, who was joined this evening with a string ensemble led by Alex Guy. Tonight’s show was sold out for a reason – St. Mark’s was filled with beautiful music from beginning to end on this captivating Friday night.
If you’ve had a chance to catch NAVVI around town at Neumos or Barboza (or even most recently at the Neptune), you probably know that armed with a good sound check, they have the power to blow you away with bass-heavy, driving electronic goodness. They did just that when they played the KEXP studio a few months ago. That being said, St. Mark’s isn’t exactly the most conducive environment to the kind of bass-rattle that Brad Boettger loads these tracks with. For tonight’s performance, the band seemed to take a whole new approach to their sound, replacing bass with sweeping strings and synth leads with reverberating piano. The songs here were familiar – all dynamite numbers from the band’s debut LP, Omni, (minus the Radiohead cover, of course) – but with new sounds and surroundings, this was a great new take on the band’s sound and style. Of course, one thing stayed the same – Kristin Henry’s immense voice carried through the space effortlessly, doubling its usual size thanks to the cavernous space. Altogether, this was a stellar NAVVI show, and the perfect introduction for anyone still waiting to get familiar with the rising Seattle act.
If NAVVI played to fans of Lemolo’s occasional dips into electronic territory, then Portland ensemble Loch Lomond definitely played to her more folk-minded followers. This year, the band is two LPs deep into their career with Pens From Spain, a sweeping, transportive collection of tunes that bends your ear to the winding roads along the Oregon coast. Lead singer and guitarist Ritchie Young finds himself among those who aspire to Stuart Murdoc levels of storytelling and magic-making, and he does a fine job for a rising musician. Plus, having a band eight deep including yourself never hurts to welcome people into a fully formed vision of new and undiscovered worlds. These are the kinds of landscapes Loch Lomond paint, and lucky for them, I can think of few places as conducive for this type of vision than a cathedral. Filling the space with immense sound and vision, Loch Lomond kept the evening rolling with more wonderful sounds from roads we all should aspire to travel more.
It’s been an awesome year for Lemolo. After Meagan Grandall dropped her second LP, Red Right Return, at the end of last year, she toured the country through the summer (including a spot at this year’s Timber! Outdoor Music Festival), then got the chance to open for Christine & the Queens at the Showbox, among other things. Following all that, if this happens to be Meagan’s last show of the year, then wow, what a way to close it out. Violist Alex Guy (also of Led to Sea) has kept the city warm with her incredible string work in the last few years, and with this outing tonight, she has outdone herself. Arranging a selection of quartets alongside beloved Lemolo tracks, Meagan and Alex made the best use of the space imaginable. While Adrian Centoni’s drumming may have been toned down for this performance, each element felt the weight of the other. Lemolo’s music has never sounded so simultaneously ethereal and massive. While Meagan Grandall knows how to make the best use of any space thrown at her, it’s nights like these where you really get to appreciate the sheer majesty of her songwriting. This was a real night to remember for Lemolo and for all of her fans in the room.