Live Concert Photography: King Raam with Smoke Season at
August 29, 2015
Just the other night, I was at Mercury Lounge with my dear friend and colleague, Natalie Hamingson and a dear friend, who I’ll refer to for the time being as C to catch the Los Angeles-based duo Smoke Season and the Tehran-based indie rock band King Raam. Now, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past month or so, both acts may be somewhat familiar to you, as you may remember coming across posts on both. Formed in 2013, Smoke Season, comprised of Gabrielle Wortman (vocals, keyboards) and Jason Rosen (guitars, vocals), have steadily built up both a local and national profile for a unique and atmospheric take on Americana that features the duo’s harmonies and the use of electronic production.
Last year was a breakthrough year for the duo of Wortman and Rosen as their sophomore effort Hot Coals Cold Souls was featured on two Spotify playlists, which resulted in over 500,000 plays in a month; since then, the band can claim a growing international profile as they’ve received over 3,000,000 plays. Cold Souls‘ quick and immense popularity shouldn’t be surprising as the effort reveals the duo drawing from a wider array of influences as the material possesses elements of country, R&B, electro pop. chillwave, the blues and others.
Wortman and Rosen, along with a touring drummer have been touring to support both their debut effort, Signals EP and their sophomore effort Hot Coals Could Souls EP while writing and working new material; in fact, their set the other night was the second time the band was in the New York City area in about a month.
(Photo Caption: Smoke Season performing at Mercury Lounge, 8/29/15) Headlining the night was King Raam, fronted by Raam, a Tehran-based singer/songwriter and musician, who is probably best known as the founder and primary songwriter of Hypernova, a band along with contemporaries Yellow Dogs, was among the pioneers of Iran’s indie rock/underground rock movement. And much like Yellow Dogs, the members of Hypernova eventually relocated to New York, in order to safely pursue their interest in music. Under that particular regime, being an artist practicing in what was deemed unsanctioned “Western” art was a major risk both professionally and personally as you may get thrown in jail — or you may be killed. Similarly, much like their counterparts in Yellow Dogs, Hypernova received a moderate amount of attention from Stateside publications and bloggers; however after some time, Raam decided that it was time to go solo. After spending several years shuttling between New York, London and Los Angeles, Raam returned to Iran to record his third and forthcoming album, A Year and a Day — and what Raam discovered was that his native country had quickly become increasingly progressive, as a young, educated and fairly Western-influenced generation have been at the forefront of ushering a new era of artistic creativity and freedom that has allowed Persian and Iranian artists the opportunity to express themselves much more freely for the first time in several generations. I suspect that among Westerners King Raam’s forthcoming album will receive some attention Stateside because of his connection to Hypernova and to Yellow Dogs — especially in light of the tragic demise of several of Yellow Dogs members a few years ago; however, as Smoke Season’s Gabrielle Wortman had told me after their set, Raam and his band are absolutely huge in Europe, playing large stadiums and festivals. And in his native Iran, Raam and company seem to be seen as heroes among his country’s young people; in fact, the crowd rushed to the stage to get closer to their heroes — and in many cases, I could clearly see members of the audience singing along in Farsi. Even in a small venue, it was quite a sight.