Almost two years have passed since Jeremy Messersmith has performed with a full band. Last night at The Hook and Ladder, a reunited band dusted off the rust to perform to a sold out audience. The show was filled with fan favorites all the way from his debut release in 2006 with “Novocain” to his 2010 breakthrough album The Reluctant Graveyard, to his apropos titled 2019 Valentine single “Sweep Me Off My Feet“.
The 24-song set was a great reminder of what makes up a trademark Messersmith show. Although his Conan O’Brien hair puff and Silicon Valley glasses are easy identifiers, here are 5 more things that you’ll always get a show.
Immediately taking the stage, Messersmith shared that he was glad the bakery let him have the night off. After a slight delay with turning up a guitar after the first song, he quickly remarked that they’ve been playing in basements for a year, so be patient as the rust will come off. Messersmith has always been quick to comment and joke about things. His humor eases people into the shows and provides an interactive way to engage with him.
After playing the clever lyric-ed song “Monday, You’re Not So Bad”, Messersmith welcomed the crowd with stating the stage had a bit of a “Between Two Ferns” vibe, which he didn’t mind at all. His humor carried on throughout the evening with sprinkles of remarks that had the audience chuckling each time. Messersmith also found humor in his own songwriting, sharing that “Sweep Me Off My Feet”, a song about taking yourself out on the town, took on a more poignant meaning after the 2020 pandemic. His humor is laced into his songwriting and live shows. It continued to find its mark, maybe best at his 9pm announcement to the crowd,
“I started playing (tonight) at the time I typically have been going to bed. This is the wildest night for me”.
Jeremy Messersmith has written songs about death, breakup, and unrequited love. But the underlying trademark of optimism is his greatest strength. His 2017 release 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs For Ukulele: A Micro Folk Record For the 21st Century and Beyond hits a bit heavier coming out of a pandemic. His performances of “Everything is Magical”, “There is Nowhere We Won’t Go”, and “We All Do Better When We All Do Better” had the audience warmly united and agreement. That optimism is so dearly needed in an age where we’re so divided.
Messermith carries this badge in even the more conflicted songs. “Purple Hearts” is a prime example of this. A relationship off to an awful start, Messersmith coyly circles back to the hope that it won’t leave a mark. The Purple Heart award is given to those wounded or killed in serving in our military. Twisting a bad situation with optimism, his music makes you hopeful for the future and getting through tough times.
Messersmith’s voice is uniquely smooth, pretty, and soft. His music circles around those traits and although the instrumentation can dynamically explode around him, the voice stays safely nested inside. There’s no strain in his singing. You don’t hear any forced notes. “All the Cool Girls” and “Postmodern Girl” were reminders of his soft intimate vocals. It this trademark that pulls you in. His voice feels effortless.
His performance of the crowd favorite “Tourniquet” showcases this skill as well. As the song rumbles out of the gate and then slowly builds up to the huge chorus, Messersmith’s voice stays reserved. Even his moments of belting out feel safe and smooth. It takes talent to make something appear so easy. Watching that onstage through 24 songs is definitely a trademark that few have.
Appreciation of Strings
No matter the size or scope of the show, Messersmith loves to incorporate strings into his performances. We heard that appreciation before “A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard” when Messersmith shared that he loved staying in bed watching cellist Dan Lawonn live-stream every night for a week. The proceeding performance of the song with Dan playing cello with an acoustic Messersmith was the key moment of the evening. The strings add so much heart to the song.
Strings have been embedded with Messersmith’s music for so long that even hearing “Tourniquet” performed with a single cello, you can (ghostly) hear the huge backing section that was recorded onto the record. Having strings add a lot to a performance and increasing the size of the sound. “Lazy Bones” was another example of a fairly straightforward song sounding bigger with strings last night.
Saved until the encore, the ukulele was finally revealed and welded. The charm of the tiny instrument aligns perfectly with Messersmith’s music and overall vibe. “Everything is Magical” reminds us of the positive in life and not needing everything to appreciate what you have. Stripped down with just the ukulele, these trademark moments of a songwriter telling happy stories are key to a Messersmith show.
Even in setting up the final song about the future, the crowd chirped in with the title, anticipating the happiest song of them all. “Everybody Gets a Kitten” had the band come back out to finish the evening with a feel good moment.
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