By Ashley Berry
In an unassuming section of Los Angeles on the borders of Silverlake, Westlake, and Historic Filipinotown, Bootleg Theatre provides a true art space for theatre, music, and film. The venue is set up in a 1930s warehouse, and on August 22nd, 2012, it had the feeling of a spacious, old attic where musicians performed like children at play.
When Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman of Snowblink opened the show, it was for an intimate crowd that included many of Gesundheit’s friends and family members. As they prepared to play, Gesundheit’s grandfather walked up to the stage and put both of his hands up in salute to the impending performance. Gesundheit thanked her grandfather and noted that he falls asleep to her music every night. This is not surprising as the music of Snowblink has the sound of a pastoral lullaby that is gently playful with a soothing simplicity.
That is not to say that the music does not embody depth. Quite to the contrary, Snowblink provides their audience with a sound that is lush, layered, and incorporates instrumental riffs that are reminiscent of sounds one might find in a natural setting: raindrops hitting the ground or the babbling of a stream. The music has an ambient quality, but is, at moments, a little stop and go. The listener is not bombarded with sounds and lyrics, but instead Snowblink allows the audience to experience the music wash over them in a cascade of gentle waves.
It is no wonder that the music has this quality, as Gesundheit hails from Los Angeles and spent her early musical career in San Francisco before moving to Toronto in 2008. She is the primary voice of Snowblink and her music is undeniably inspired by the the natural environments of her various home bases. Her voice could be compared to that of Leslie Feist or Chan Marshall, with a range that spans from breathy and delicate to a deep, earthiness replete with yips that sound like battle cries. She does not simply sing her songs, but uses her voice as an instrument to express emotions that cannot be tied down to words. As she croons and strums her antler-adorned guitar, her eyes are usually closed and she sways to the music, giving the impression of a child playing make-believe, completely unaware that she is being watched. This lack of self-consciousness is, perhaps, what makes her performance so compelling. She is in the moment, expressing her soul through sound. Goldman accompanies her with guitar and sporadic vocals, providing the equivalent of a good friend’s support–never overpowering, simply filling in the blanks and helping Gesundheit along on each song’s musical journey.
While pieces from the duo’s first album, Long Live, maintain a gentle, melodic quality, Snowblink’s soon-to-be-released sophomore album, Inner Classics, incorporates a decidedly more upbeat element. If Long Live is like walking around in a dream, then Inner Classics, takes the listener on a run through the forest with occasional forays into the city. At times the sound lends itself to a sense of children playing a game of chase, but as is often the case with children’s games, the sound sometimes takes a darker, more aggressive turn, only to eventually find its way back to a softer place.
As Gesundheit and Goldman left the stage, Mike Andrews and his collaborators began to set up and it became clear that the feeling of the show was shifting. When you first see Andrews, you cannot help but notice his classic nerd uniform: plaid shirt, loosely fitting jeans, sneakers, and, of course, thick glasses. His shaggy, tousled hair gives the impression that he is just a geeky kid, but don’t be fooled. Andrews is an accomplished musician and composer, and he is a true audiophile. He is best-known for his work as a score composer on films such as Bridesmaids, You, Me, and Everyone We Know, and the cult-classic, Donnie Darko, but it is in his live performance that his true range becomes evident.
Andrews opened the first half of his set with a series of covers, including “The Dolphins” (Fred Neil), “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel), and “Blue Moon” (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart), and his performance style is simultaneously relaxed and neurotic. He would casually invite collaborating musicians onstage one minute, and then show great concern for the audience’s patience levels while tuning his guitar the next. While it was Andrews’ show, he shared the stage with his musical guests with graciousness and ease, allowing each artist to carve out their own artistic space within the collaboration. His approach is not altogether dissimilar to that of a well-attuned parent who creates a supportive environment, but then steps back to allow the child to find its own path. Perhaps this style is an extension of Andrews’ status as a relatively new parent, as he point to his experiences of early parenthood as the inspiration behind his recently released solo album, Spilling a Rainbow.
During the second half of his set, he shared a few songs from the album, which ranged in sound from jazzy, funk-inspired elements to psychedelic rock and many things in between. As an audience-member, you couldn’t help but feel that you had been allowed to sit in on an intimate living room jam session, albeit a well-organized one with very talented musicians. Andrews summed up the feeling of the night when he looked into the crowd mid-performance and exclaimed, “Ok, cool! This is fun–this is mellow.”