Smallpools | 05.16.15

live smallpools_75The audience kept two blow-up Shamu dolls bouncing from start to finish during the über-engaging “Killer Whales.”

live smallpools_500

Summit Music Hall, Denver

For a new band without an official release (their debut CD is due on RCA later this year), Hunter Hunted were very well received—and they deserved to be. Over a 30-minute, 6-song set, they played with heart, spoke with humility, and sang in rich voice. As an added bonus for the Denver crowd, this was their first show on the Smallpools tour, so they were doubly excited to be on stage. Set highlights included one song they were playing live for the very first time, and set closer “Blindside,” their first single. Later this summer, the band will embark on a co-headlining tour with Young Rising Sons, a delicious double bill if ever there was one. (Go.)

Is there such a thing as hippie hipsters? Maybe we discovered that tonight. Although their press release described them as folk-meets-electronica, Grizfolk were mellow Southern rock. The band members let their freak flags fly, especially the bassist, who looked to be out of a bad ’70s movie, and the guitarist, whose long blond hair hung in his face a lá Cousin Itt. They were tight, to be sure, but there was more roots and country than I would have liked. Although the crowd was into the set, screaming and cheering, I was completely over it halfway through. A Southern rock rendition of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” did the song no justice.

Finally, it was time for what we’d all come to see: Smallpools. And their show? They owned it. There was incense, there was a weird dog statue on the stage, there were headbands and ’fros, and there was hair teased high. Front man Sean Scanlon sported a Western-type shirt, with some sort of weird moth emblem across the top. And I had no idea what to make of his hair, a kind of mussed shag cut. He looks nothing like he sounds, which was both refreshing and confusing. And maybe that’s the point.

Calls for hands and cellphones in the air were obliged—as was every other request made of the crowd. Denver audiences are the most polite and engaged. Anything a band asks, from headliner to unknown opener, they do. No wonder artists so often cite Denver as their favorite place to play. Smallpools relayed yet another reason Denver is so special to them: They played their first headlining show here at the Marquis Theater.

A somewhat unnecessary drum solo led into “American Love,” one of my favorite songs on the band’s debut full-length Lovetap! Scanlon introduced a xylophone into the song, and concluded by tapping on a drum and adding, “I always get so charged up, and then we do the wimpiest thing: hit a drum with glow sticks.”

Before the album’s title track, Scanlon spoke about taking the time to be fully present and engaged in the moment. He asked, “Can we just revel in this moment that we’re having together, and ditch technology for the next song?” A second request soon followed: “If I jump, you jump.” (We did.) He delivered the song’s bridge from the crowd before retaking the stage and introducing the next song—“9 to 5”—as being about “a crossroads in my life.”

Scanlon introduced “Admission” with a story of attempts to fit in after moving to L.A. with guitarist Mike Kamerman. (Bassist Joseph Intile and drummer Beau Kuther round out the band.) Ultimately, his advice to us was this: “Don’t bother trying to get people to like you.” The best story, however, belonged to the final song of the main set.

“When we were starting out, we used to search own band name on the internet. Sometimes the results came up with it being cruel to keep killer whales in small pools.” Throwing two blow-up Shamu dolls into the audience—who kept them bouncing start to finish—they delivered a fun-filled, engaging, and crowd-pleasing performance of “Killer Whales.”

The instrumental beginning of “Submarine” ushered in the band’s return to the stage, with them joining in after retaking their positions. Another tale of relocating to L.A. followed, when the singer and guitarist were “drinking a lot of whiskey and singing a lot of karaoke.” After taking an audience picture with the dog statue, Smallpools played “Dreaming,” their final song of the night. As the audience poured out onto the sidewalk, not one of us realized it was raining. | Laura Hamlett

Set list

Over and Over
Street Fight
No Story Time
What’s That a Picture Of?
A Real Hero
American Love
Mason Jar
9 to 5
Killer Whales


About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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