Smile Politely

Gospel Music: Empty Churches

I’m not entirely sure what to say about the Gospel Music show that I witnessed this past Friday night at Mike ‘N Mollys. I do know that the turnout was relatively poor. And I know that the sound was, well, not good. I know that both supporting acts were charming and enthusiastic. And I know that Gospel Music proved that they are a professional band making the most of what they are given on a nightly basis.

Really, what I learned this past Friday was that a band can do everything right and still struggle to feel like they have. Gospel Music is a band on a major indie label with fun, upbeat music, and a front man with national touring experience who has made a name for himself already. This is what you are supposed to do. That is how it works. But the morsel of success that they have experienced has still only given way to a long headlining tour at mid-level venues like the one they played Friday night.

You see, part of me wants to just shrug my shoulders and say, well, that’s how it goes. The music industry is what it is right now. But the other part of me knows that this really could have been avoided by the venue itself. Mike ‘N Mollys really needed bigger local support because an out of town band with little national pull should never have played last on this bill.

All that aside, let’s get to the music. Pamela Machala began the night and was oh so charming. She seems to be a genuine soul with a love for music that really comes through on stage. She always has a smile to match her happy songs. She is a pretty straightfoward singer songwriter with a keyboard and lovely set of pipes and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered. I thought the keys were a bit harsh at times throughout the night, but Machala’s voice never failed to shine.

The Megan Johns Band played second and were equally charming. Johns definitely has a darker sound that reminds me of Alanis Morissette or Liz Phair. Her bass player doubled as a saxophonist and that was one of the more refreshing moments of the night. Megan Johns plays around town quite a bit so catch her 90’s soaked vocals if you have the chance and haven’t already.

Gospel Music played a pretty short and sweet set. Their performance was solid across the board. The lead singer Owen Holmes has a deep and scratchy voice that he melodically walks through the tunes and back up vocalist Madeline Long ties it all together with her sweet and soft singing. They really do make a nice pairing. I thought the rhythm section was tight and dancy and the keys were solid as well.

But, alas, the sound at Mike ‘N Mollys this past Friday really was atrocious. There is no way to put this nicely. It was awful. Far and away the most muddled garble of sound I have witnessed at a venue I had a hand in naming as my favorite in town. It was disheartening and you could tell it affected Gospel Music a great deal. I give them loads of credit for remaining calm and classy about the situation, but they knew that not a soul out on the patio could make out a single word of their lyric-driven pop music. That is a shame.

Despite the mutual lack of enthusiasm from both crowd and band, Gospel Music have an engaging stage presence. The band has fun throughout as they work through their back and forth vocal duets and catchy keyboard melodies that drive most of their hits. The music begs you to dance and have fun and they returned the favor by giving off a positive summer-y vibe, again, even though much was lost in the mix.

It’s too bad this show panned out the way it did. I wish Gospel Music the best moving forward. They are doing everything right. Let’s just hope they reap the benefits in the months to come.

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