(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: Emmy the Great with Louis Weeks at DC9, Washington DC – 17th February 2015

By on Thursday, 19th February 2015 at 2:00 pm

A few inches of snow from winter storm Octavia the night before may have put Washington, DC, on temporary city snow emergency status. But it wasn’t enough to keep punters away from the debut appearance of Emmy the Great in our fine city Tuesday night. The DC date was the second in a short string of East Coast dates Emma-Lee Moss and band arranged for this week to support the January release of her latest new material on the ‘S’ EP, now out on Bella Union.

The opener for the evening was Baltimore/Washington musician Louis Weeks, accompanied by his buddy Noah on guitar. Wearing a jumper and tall winter hat with a large puffball on its top, he would have easily blended in with the snowball fighters earlier that day at Meridian Park. While Weeks looked like he was ready to brave the great outdoors, he was keeping his brand of alt dream / folk pop firmly inside the much warmer confines of DC9. The track Weeks chose to start his set, ‘Clementine’, floated on the delicacy of his voice, reminding me of Bon Iver or even a more introspective Jack Johnson making music forlornly in a bedroom.

Weeks later explained that ‘Calder’, though named for the late American sculptor Alexander famous for his mobiles – his largest hangs as a permanent installation to welcome visitors in the modern East Wing of our National Gallery of Art – was also a loving nod to his grandmother, as well as part of his own interest in the process of human ageing. Both songs appear on his 2014 album ‘Shift / Away’, which you can listen to and download for free the entirety of ‘Shift / Away’ from the widget below or from his Bandcamp. Weeks’ stage patter also provided welcome entertainment, by and large amusing the audience, while providing a nice, humble segue to the headline act.

I had waited 7 years to see Emmy the Great live, and I am pleased to say without a doubt, it was worth the wait. Emma-Lee Moss is known for her humour (often self-deprecating) on social media, which has humanised and endeared her to over 12,000 followers strong on Twitter and the nearly 19,000 people who have liked her profile on Facebook. The four songs on the ‘S’ EP are, on varying levels, a departure from her previous anti-folk, singer/songwriter style that she has been most known for. These days, you can count on a long-haired hipster singer/songwriter to be wearing either a t-shirt or plaid and jeans, but not Emmy, whose dark hair was in a neat plait and dressed all in white.

This choice of clothing was, I’m guessing, to provide a dramatic counterbalance to the projections on the a/v screen behind her and her band: two all-black-clad Emmy the Great holograms with dance moves synchronised to all her new songs. Emma herself got into the spirit of things by mimicking the moves, making for a mostly awesome but also admittedly slightly creepy production. But no matter how she was dressed or what the twin projections were up to behind her, there was no denying that her Moss’ voice was peerless and beautiful. She and her band (her brother Robin on guitar and friend Michael on synths, keys and backing vocals) were equally at ease with the newer, electronically charged tunes from ‘S’, including dance thumpy ‘Solar Panels’ and set closer and single ‘Swimming Pool’, as they were with older numbers more suited to an acoustic setting (‘Dinosaur Sex’, ‘Paper Forest’).

Throughout the set, Emma cracked jokes, charming everyone in the room with her disarming nature. Early on she greeted us with, “happy pancake day! Happy belated President’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day for Saturday. And I hope you have a happy Easter!” Laughter ensued. She quipped later that she and her brother were “wombmates. Stay tuned for the sitcom on Fox this fall”. As if she needed to prove she hadn’t forgotten where she’d come from, they returned for an crowd-sourced encore, performing both ‘We Almost Had a Baby’ and ‘Two Steps Forward’, but not before insisting to the crowd she could not remember how either of them went, then imploring us not to video the songs and post them on YouTube. (Will have to see about that…)

Three new songs – ‘Algorythm’ [sic?], ‘Phoenixes’ and ‘Dance With Me’ – suggest Emmy’s comfort with embracing and going forward with a dreamier, poppier, electronic sound, what she described as “living in a 2.0 world” in my interview with her posted on Monday. One certainly hopes we’ll be seeing album #3 and hearing much more from the lovely Ms. Moss before 2016. At least those of us lucky enough to be in Austin next month for SXSW 2015 will get another chance to see her perform live.

After the cut: Emmy the Great’s set list.

Emmy the Great Set List
Alygorythm [sic?]
Paper Forest
Social Halo
Somerset (I Can’t Get Over)
City Song
Dinosaur Sex
Solar Panels
Dance With Me
Swimming Pool
We Almost Had a Baby
Two Steps Forward

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