I got to see Emmy the Great
perform on Wednesday at Barboza in Seattle. I've been listening to her since around... 2008. I've been wanting to see her live for a while, so I'm glad I finally made it happen.
Except for the venue. More often than not, I'm underwhelmed by the sound quality at live shows, and this concert was one of the best examples of poor sound. The equipment simply could not handle the volume, so it was tons of distortion the whole time, which is pretty bad when her sound is so light to begin with. I'm to the point where I wouldn't be opposed to certifications for music venues, so there's a baseline for sound quality. I did get to try out the DUBS Acoustic Filters I bought. I probably wasn't wearing them right, as the bass made it feel like they were going to be shaken out, but they did their job of attenuating the sound. I gave my sister a different brand, Hearos. She seemed happy with how they fit, and was definitely thankful I had the foresight to bring them along.
But beyond the issue with the sound, I was happy I got my chance to see her. I was disappointed with the size of the crowd, though. I didn't know anything about the venue, but it's actually in the basement of Neumos, which itself isn't a big venue. This really was just a bar with maybe half a dozen booths, a couple of higher tables in the middle, a bit of an area for people to stand, and the stage. And it was not close to full. I felt bad for Emmy, especially since she said it was her first Seattle show. I hope she comes back in the future.
She was doing almost everything herself. I thought I saw her walk in while my sister and I waited in a booth, carrying a couple of bags. She disappeared back where the restrooms were, and I suppose the green room must have been back there somewhere, too. She came out later, her hands full, and she was talking to the people sitting at the booth outside the restrooms. Then she started setting stuff down on the table. After a few minutes, the people got up and relocated. When she retreated to the green room again, I leaned over to my sister. "I'm going to go see what's there. I think she just made that her merch table." Yeah, Emmy the Great merchandise, so I no longer had any doubt that it was her.
She was in and out several more times while the opener performed. Gracie and Rachel. My sister and I didn't really get into them at all. I imagine part of it was the abominable sound, but the songs all had the same feel to them, the same pacing. I kept waiting for something to jump out at me.
After they took their setup off-stage, Emmy and her two accompanying musicians started to bring their stuff out. At first it was just Emmy bringing it out. Before starting the performance, she did some weird lip-quivering thing, which I assume was some pre-show exercise thing for nimbleness? It was fun to watch, at least. Ha ha. She was cute and funny, telling us she had another set she'd do after the main one, which would be older material that we didn't have to stick around for. She had a guy from the crowd come up and help her with a song he'd requested on Twitter (I think). She couldn't remember all of the lyrics, so she'd had to look them up online with spotty internet access. They were two screenshots on her phone, so his job was to keep her phone from going black, and then switching from one image to the next when the time came. He doubted his ability to do it, but she told him she believed in him. "We're doing this together," she commanded.
I had fun.
After the show, she didn't take long to come out and meet people at her merch table. She talked for quite a while to the guy who had made the song request. Then another person or two, and then she was given a signal by someone from the venue staff, and she said, "Okay, I have ten minutes, so who else wants to buy something?" And then right after some guy decided to talk her ear off. I don't know what he was saying, but she ended up apologizing about something, and gave him a hug. Like I said, I don't know what he was saying, but her apology made it sound like it wasn't anything she had any control over, maybe not even directly related to her, but she let him go on and on about whatever it was. Then someone from the staff said, "Five minutes, and we have to close up." I think there were a couple of people in front of me, and maybe only one or two people behind me. I was getting antsy. The people ahead of me got their autographs and photos, and then I was up. I bought one of the S
EP vinyls, as well as the new album on CD, which isn't actually out until the 11th. So I can cancel my preorder on Amazon now.
"I first saw your name in the liner notes on Lightspeed Champion's first album," I told her. She had done guest vocals. I bought it after seeing them perform on Conan. "Aww," she said. "You do know how great he is, don't you?" I told her I hadn't kept up with him since he'd changed to Blood Orange, but that I would have to look him up again. She was moving on to the next person, so I think I kind of barked when I asked if I could get my photo with her. But she smiled and put her arm around me. My sister's phone's camera app hadn't been working right, so I had given her mine. The flash was on automatic, but for whatever reason, it didn't go off when she took the picture, even though I'd tested it just before going to the merch table. I wasn't about to ask her to wait for another attempt with the couple of other people waiting for their turn. It's too bad it got so rushed because of the long conversations two of the people had with her. I would have liked my vinyl autographed, since I actually already owned a copy. I figured I'd keep my autographed copy and give my friend the other one. Next time, if she plays anywhere close again. In any case, someone did some tweaking of the image:
Here is a questionnaire she handed out after the show:
And here is the free song download mentioned:We Are Vanished (SoundCloud)
If any of you happen to know anything about who wrote the song, it sounds like she really wants to know.