Live at Lerner’s Sounds series has sometimes struck me as a musical blind date. The performers – usually up-and-coming NYC-based talent – can look just a little out of their element, playing a lunchtime gig squashed against the piano lounge’s baby grand. The students are a shy, enthusiastic audience, most of whom will not have heard of the band before seeing a tastefully designed poster in the Hamilton stairwell. But everyone makes a virtue of unfamiliarity, as the performers make our drab student center burst with a little bit of life and students file in for an hour of music and a warm, free lunch.
Wednesday’s amply enjoyable Sounds performance by This Old Ghost, a dynamic five-piece indie rock band with folk overtones, nostalgic feelings, snappy lyrics, flute riffs, and a fresh-from-the-oven LP, did not disappoint. This Old Ghost’s music is smart and self-reflective, their execution on Wednesday afternoon tight and polished. Their songs keep to some indie mainstays—think Bon Iver or Iron and Wine, beards and feelings included—but with enough lyrical wit and musical imagination to sound fresh and engaging. I appreciate in particular the colour that Karri Diomede’s flute lends to “Nowhere” and, from Ghost’s EP, “Madam of the Old West,” and I’ll admit that I spent some two minutes listening to “Foreign Languages” and tapping out the time signature (a 6/8 | 3/4 hemiola, I think).
And while This Old Ghost’s music tends towards the introspective and weighty—vocalist Ian McGuinness’ echo pedal lent Wednesday’s performance an at times emotionally gimmicky tone—McGuinness’ and Diomede’s abundant, lighthearted energy made the music impossible not to enjoy. McGuinness’ wry acknowledgement of some of the set’s more awkward moments was especially amusing, as he bantered with the room about the band’s not crafting a set list and the hodgepodge audience: “Sorry if you’re doing homework and we’re just being loud up here.” (Really, no apologies necessary, though.)
My hat is off as well to Columbia Catering for their menu of steaming barley soup, rich hot chocolate, and a bread pudding that felt like a hug in my mouth. And kudos to the Live at Lerner team for putting a bright, warm moment in a busy student’s day. I look forward to a term of Sounds.