Live Concert Photography: Smoota, Superhuman Happiness and Hearing Things at Union Pool 11/2/18
Dave “Smoota” Smith is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as an in-demand session and touring trombonist, who has worked with an eclectic array of artists including TV on the Radio, Run the Jewels, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Pretty Lights, Griz, Aaron Neville, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and a lengthy list of others.
As a solo artist Smoota’s sound is indebted to Quiet Storm-era R&B and is primarily centered around vintage 70s and 80s synths and drum machines while the material focuses on themes frequently explored in literature and European art films including the polyamorous urge, happy S&M relationships, taboo lust for one’s in-laws, the complexity of the female orgasm, the connection between masturbation and intercourse and so on — with an unvarnished honesty, a sense of mischievous humor and a ton of naughty double entendres.
Smoota’s sophomore album Pheromones was recorded over several years in his Brooklyn-based basement studio and will further cement his growing reputation for crafting Quiet Storm-era inspired synth pop that’s thematically centered around explorations of sexual desire and its complex and intersection with love, full of naughty double entendres; however, unlike this debut effort, 2013’s Fetishes, Pheromones was written and performed almost entirely solo. Smoota’s sultry Union Pool set featured material off his first two albums — and naturally featured a shit ton of keytar because, you can’t get sexy without it, right? Opening the night were JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness and Hearing Things. Obviously, as the year is inching to a close, I’m catching up on a number of things. Check out photos from the night below.
With the release of their critically applauded full-length debut Hands, the Brooklyn-based dance pop/experimental pop act Superhuman Happiness led by co-founders Stuart Bogie (vocals, saxophones, synths) and Eric Biondo (vocals, trump, synths, percussion) emerged on the national scene for a sound that drew from Talking Heads, Antibalas, Fela Kuti, 80s synth pop and New Wave, as well as an ebullient and mischievous live show that incorporated elements of improv comedy, jazz improvisation, surrealist comedy and performance art.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of its eight-plus year history, you may recall that since the release of Hands, the act has gone through a major lineup reshuffling that included the recruitment of Andrea Diaz (lead vocals, keyboards, percussion), along with a rotating cast of collaborators that frequently includes former full-time members. The Brooklyn-based dance pop act’s sophomore album Escape Velocity found the band in the middle of a radical and decided change in sonic direction in which the band increasingly focused on synths and electronics — while retaining many of the elements that first caught my attention, as well as that of the rest of the blogosphere: material centered by deep grooves that’s mischievous, joyful but with an underlying thematic profundity. In the case of Escape Velocity, a great deal of the material focused on the fidelity and accuracy of one’s memories against nostalgia.
The JOVM mainstays released their third full-length album Beacon, a little before their Union Pool show. And as a result, their set focused on the material off the new album, with some live favorites including “See Me On My Way.“
Featuring multi-instrumetnliast Matt Bauder (saxophones and guitar), a renowned sideman, who’s played with Iron & Wine, Arcade Fire and the Broadway musical Fela! house band; and jazz-trained musicians J.P. Schlegelmilch (organ) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), the New York-based trio Hearing Things sound has been described as Middle Eastern-tinged surf rock with old school soul and R&B vibes. Now, as you may recall, I’ve come across them on a bill or two over the years, and they opened the night with what may arguably have been the loosest set I’ve heard and seen them play.