11/2/2014 – The Sinclair

Noah Gundersen understands when to use the word “fuck.”

“And Jesus, Jesus, it’s such a pretty place we live in / And I know we fucked it up, please be kind. Don’t let us go out like the dinosaurs / or blown to bits in a third world war,” he sings in his song “Jesus Jesus,” a song he performs solo—just guitar and vocals.

The crowd at The Sinclair was silent, only the humming of the building heater could be heard, a blanket of soft noise covering acoustic guitar. With a well-placed F-word in an otherwise tender song, “fuck” popped out like a streaker at a sports game. You rooted for it to be there, in an oddly delightful and delinquent way.

Gundersen and Co. (sister Abby on violin, brother Jonathan the drummer, and two other bandmates) proved to be the masters of surprise all night long. As it turns out, Noah Gundersen is a hypnotist, able to drop people into a trance when he plays the right chord. That, or the lady who fell onto the floor was hammered. Up for debate.

“This happens all the time,” Noah Gundersen said, as the crowd backed away from the attendee who had collapsed, and Sinclair security made their way over. “It’s the D chord that does it.”

As Gundersen began playing where he’d left off, he sang the refrain, “I wanna lie down,” and the crowd began to laugh. “Safely,” he added. After the song ended, he said, “I’m not kidding—that happens a lot at my shows.” He tuned his guitar. “I like to think it’s swooning.”

One of the set’s highlights included a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which Gundersen introduced by saying that it was a song from Seattle that they had no right no play, but were going to anyway. The result was a ballad version of Nirvana’s flagship grunge song—unexpectedly bare and quietly angry—but maybe that’s what felt so fresh.

A true testament to Gundersen’s presence on stage was that hardly anyone in the audience was viewing the show through their cellphone. Instead, they used their eyes and ears to enjoy the performance.

Gundersen ended the set with “Ledges,” but was drawn back onto the stage by a cheering crowd to play a few more tunes. For the final song, the Gundersen siblings played “Poor Man’s Son,” a song that begins a cappella until Gundersen strums his guitar. The three siblings’ harmonies were near perfect—almost as if they’d been singing together for years.

Falling for Gundersen: Noah Gundersen
Pros
  • Sibling harmonies were on point
  • Self-effacing banter is an attractive quality for an indie musician
  • Gundersen handled drunk lady collapsing with poise
Cons
  • Song arcs perhaps too similar (starting soft, building to loud by end of song)
8.5Sibling Harmonies

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