Only a trailing string of bare bulbs illuminated the space as the band began to play. Hanging from the walls were eleven photos, ranging from the dark, veiled face of a Victoria’s Secret model to a severed arm, and even to the spectacular Northern Lights; each image was paired with a track off of Gem Club’s most recent album In Roses. Amongst the creaking of the hardwood floor, the soothing voice of Christopher Barnes soared to the white wooden beams of the ceiling of the South End studio before reaching the ears of the fans, friends and family who were invited to attend Gem Club’s special performance.
From the moment the opening chords of “Twins” filled the room, it was clear the night would be an intimate one. As Barnes nervously plunking on piano keys we heard the story of how “Marathon” – a song about the abusive relationship of an acquaintance of his – came to be. What followed was an emotional rendition of the track, backed by the projected visuals of a viscous liquid leaking onto a dark red rose – a slow, eerie movement that captured the off-putting frustrations of the complicated situation. Shortly afterwards, they stimulated yet another of our senses as the deep notes of “Braid” resonated in our ribs.
Despite all that, the trio fell somewhat short in adapting to its devoted audience. Here was its true fan base, most of whom supported the act over the years, who didn’t need song introductions to interrupt the flow of the show. Though Barnes seemed at home, having slipped off his shoes to reveal striped socks resting atop the Persian carpet, there was still the sense that Gem Club had not completely let loose. Perhaps the trio were a bit timid because of the array of expensive lenses pointed at them (a video team filmed the entire set), but it seemed like a missed opportunity to be carried by the emotion of their tracks and stray from the recorded versions. Luckily, as per request of the gallery owner, they did take a leap of faith that paid off, playing a fantastic cover of Big Star’s Kangaroo.
Regardless, as faded colors lazily swam across the screen behind the band and blended with the harmonics of Drymala’s cello and the soothing voices of Berberian and Barnes, Gem Club successfully transported its audience to a calming, hazy lava lamp of a home.
- Visuals paired well with the music
- Intimate setting appropriate for mood of songs
- Could have used more spontaneity