I had been listening to Smoke Season’s music for about two weeks straight prior to their show at the Mercury Lounge. Slowly, I became heavily enticed by their sound. Lead singer, Gabrielle Wortman’s voice grabbed a hold of my ribs and pulled me in closer and closer. When I finally saw them perform that night, I felt as if I was lured in as their prey to overindulge on their sound…
Needless to say, I came that night to binge. Smoke Season’s set subtly started with an ominous male voice that projected out,
“There’s so much smoke, that I can’t see the mirror.”
Gabrielle cried out overtop of this in a high pitched tone. This set a dark and eerie ambiance for the rest of their performance.
As Smoke Season played, putting a spell over the audience, there were these black and white projected images of scenery, sometimes just shapes, but other times only poltergeist-like static. These black and white lights seemed like they were consuming the band. At certain moments, Gabrielle’s contortionist movements made the projections appear as if it were actually a blanket she couldn’t find her way out of.
Gabrielle, whipping her long, white/purple baliage hair, was totally wild. It was like everything was physically and emotionally being pulled out of her by every word she sang. Her body became a part of the lyrics. And Jason Rosen, singer/guitarist, was reacting with her in such a passionate way with many of their songs, such as their slower paced track Soleil. You could feel the energy between them as line-by-line, back forth, and then in unison, they sang. The entire time they were locked into each other’s eyes, while Jason paced towards her with his acoustic guitar.
What makes Smoke Season’s sound particularly amazing is the fact they are versatile in genre and stretch themselves along the indie spectrum. Bandlands is this foot-stomping, spirit-conjuring, snakes-in-a-skull type of a song. There’s all this vocal foreplay between Gabrielle and Jason; call and response, entrancing thick-layered harmonies, and isolated raw repeating lines that gain more and more intensity each time around. Kind of like in The Craft when Sarah recites that binding spell on Nancy (you may not have been a true fan like me, I know).
Although it is difficult to replicate the quality of music when you have a slight electronic sound, they nailed it. Not that they even needed any of it anyway. They could have done an acoustic set and been consistently beautiful. With the layers and layers of harmonies they produce vocally, the extra reverb or prerecords is a treat, audibly. Gabrielle’s voice tantalizingly dances as smoke does with slight breeze.
In their other song, Simmer Down, they had us dancing around in circles, hands in the air with more of an indie/pop/alternative vibe. It’s completely one of those catchy songs that Apple would slap on one of their commercials. Smoke Season even went into this indie/folk/Of Monsters and Men sound with their song Bianco. They sing back and forth to each other and add in some “1, 2, 3, 4” counts and some group “Hey!” vocals. Smoke Season performed these brighter songs towards the end of their set, which was pretty perfect. Their show was very progressive and evolutional, first baring their soul in a deep place and then moved in uplifting spirits to close it out.
What makes Smoke Season’s sound particularly amazing is the fact they are so versatile in genre. Bandlands is this foot stomping, dirt kicking, snakes in a skull type of a song. Then with Simmer Down, they’ve got you dancing around in circles with your hands in the air.