XVIII. "The Maturation of Smoosh"
We see ourselves in other people. We see ourselves when we sit alone at a concert, at a bar, watching the silhouettes of people mill about in dark room groups. We see ourselves in the three girls in glittery tops ordering Coronas, laughing, looking around as they suck their yellow glass bottles. We see ourselves in the Chuck Taylor sneakers and day bags draped across chests.
Sitting alone at the Smoosh show at the Knitting Factory this past week, I watched and listened to people talk about the preteen headliners.
"They're how old?"
"I think they're from Seattle. They were on NPR or something."
"You didn't see them? They were the two girls sitting in the front row during the first band's set."
"Keyboards and drums."
"The drummer from Death Cab for Cutie is like their coach or something."
"No, they're supposed to be good. Seriously. Someone said they opened for Modest Mouse."
The second band of the night was Dynasty, a local New York duo with a sample and a guitar. A lead singer like the woman from Jefferson Airplane. A guitarist equal parts talent and enigma, just as he should be. The band was fine. I ordered two beers. The third song was just like the first song, which was a lot like the last song. People danced a cynical weight shift from foot to foot. But I enjoyed them.
When Smoosh took the stage, there was applause. Some hoots, some whistles. I looked about for the parents, but didn't see them. Maybe they are upstairs?
I wish I were able to write about Smoosh and not mention the fact that they are young. How young, it doesn't matter. The fact that they are young, and talented, has gotten them spots on CNN, the Today Show, and NPR. They've played around Seattle, at clubs where many bands of mid-twenties record store clerks and English teachers would step onstage and consider "this moment" the accomplishing of a goal.
But in New York, Smoosh does not have the recognition it does in Seattle, where many of the people turning out to a headlining show, at say, the Showbox, would have seen them there a year and a half ago opening for Death Cab and Nada Surf. In Seattle there's the hometown pride. New York, however, was an accomplishment for the girls in Smoosh. The crowd seemed won over by their preteen honesty, their competence at drums and keys, their Olsen twins-esque foreshadowing of future beauty.
I sit alone at the bar and watch two men about my age lean towards each other occasionally in crossed-arm conversation. I see myself seeing Smoosh for the first time — I have, of course, like all noble Seattle concert-goers, seen them before — and I see myself remarking on how well they play their instruments.
But wait! For those of us who have seen them. The few fans from Seattle who've made it out, or for the publicists and industry folk no doubt at this show, there are new songs, more competent songs. The natural maturation between an artist's first record and second is tangible in Smoosh's new songs. "Tonight," she sings, with as much sincerity and songwriter admiration of such a staple lyrical tool. The word "tonight" fits well in her voice.
I leave thinking that Smoosh, for all the press and word of mouth praise they get, is a good band. By no means far surpassing their indie rock peers. But that is the tension that makes them so, I don't know, desirable to listen to and see. They are just as talented as the bulk of their indie rock peers. To see myself at their age is to see a little league team and a juice box crushed in my hand after a Saturday afternoon game. The accomplishment they should feel on the Knitting Factory stage in New York — during their summer vacation — is that they are fully members of the independent record store canon.
Back at the bar.
"You know who this band is?"
"These girls, can you believe how young they are?"
"Yeah, I've seen them before. They're from Seattle; so am I. I've seen them back there."
"How'd a Seattle band like this get all the way out here? They're pretty good."
"They're good," I say. "They've done well in Seattle and now I guess they came out here to play some shows. What would you do on your summer vacation?!"
I doubt their age will be an issue for much longer. Smoosh's brand of keyboard and drums is one based on structure and quality, and really, they're not that young. They play well, they write well. Quality never goes out of style.