6/8/14 – Great Scott

In the chorus of his most successful song to date, Zac Little, front man of Ohio indie-folk outfit Saintseneca, professes that he would be “happy alone.” However, as he crooned these lyrics from beneath his bushy red moustache to a small crowd of dedicated fans this Sunday at the Great Scott in Allston, it seemed unlikely that he truly meant them.

Having long praised the supportive and communal atmosphere of the Columbus, OH music scene, Little and his foot-stomping, multi-instrumentalist bandmates filled the venue with that unifying sense of camaraderie, so that by show’s end every spectator felt initiated into the tribe of Saintseneca. Little and Co. are not the reclusive introverts that one would imagine from their lyrics of isolation and doom. Rather than lurking in the tour bus preparing for the performance, Little stood next to me and cheered on the opening acts, giving the audience its first taste of the evening’s amity after local performer Grumpus snapped off a guitar string in the middle of his set. Unable to continue his performance without a working guitar, Grumpus was ready to abandon the stage when Little rushed to his aid and saved the show with his own guitar. The newly reequipped Grumpus performed a number of rousing songs on vocals, the guitar, harmonica, and bass drum simultaneously.

This massive support for the opening bands continued as Little thanked both Grumpus and the energetic four piece indie-pop outfit Memory Map for joining them at this show, and tried to entice audience members into buying the new Memory Map album by half-jokingly suggesting that, because the album was not yet officially released, they could be that special someone who leaks it to the Internet.

Saintseneca is most often written about as a band led by the vision of one man, in the vein of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, or Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst. However, Little is not a clear frontman. He shared the head of the stage with three of his band mates in a straight line, swapping locations as they traded instruments, each taking a turn with the guitar, bass, dulcimer, and one of the band’s many other Appalachian instruments. The two performers at center stage (usually Little and whoever was playing the dulcimer) bathed in menacing red light, while those on the peripheries performed in a heavenly blue. This setting, whether the band’s plan or merely the Great Scott’s usual lightshow, complemented the interplay of darkness and joy ever-present in the songs from the band’s latest release, Dark Arc.

In addition to sharing instruments, Little shared lead vocals with female bandmate Maryn Jones, who delivered the finest and most haunting vocal performance of the night with the band’s “Fed Up With Hunger,” her voice mingling perfectly with Little’s at the close of the song. Mid-show, however, a belligerently drunk member of the audience heckled Jones, asking to “see that booty.” Instantly, the entire community was ready to pounce on the man, but Jones shook off the comment and asked that he “present his booty.” The heckler resigned in defeat. After a few more songs, I heard the heckler say that the band was great, ask someone who they were, and meander out of the bar. Before the final song, Jones noticed his absence and declared victory at the disappearance of the “booty guy,” earning enormous applause from the crowd.

By show’s end, the many strangers in the Great Scott had formed into a caring community of fans ready to help one another at the first sign of trouble, whether it be a broken instrument, a drunken heckler, or any other difficulty. This bond led the audience to relentlessly cheer for more encores—even though the majority were risking missing the last T train or bus home. It was a team effort on the part of both the band and the audience. Although Little’s lyrics are often astoundingly sincere, it was obvious by night’s end that he was happy in this community, not happy alone.

No Longer Happy Alone: Saintseneca
Pros
  • Intimate
  • Fantastic sound
  • Warm and welcoming mood
Cons
  • Songs got monotonous after a while
  • Not a great turnout at the show
8.2Overall Score

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