Concert Review

Concert Review: Carl Broemel and Dave Simonett

In August of this year, Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket and Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles announced they’d temporarily put guitar work for their bands aside and team up to tour their solo projects. Their November 10 performance at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle marked the first stop in a tour that has since taken them up and down the Eastern U.S.

Though Carl Broemel’s solo work left behind the country influences of his previous act, the folk-inspired earthiness and grounded attitude remained. His act was simple in focus: a guitar and loop pedal were his instruments of choice, with only the occasional interjection of a saxophone riff. Broemel’s lyrics were equally straightforward, often dealing with familiar themes and using unadorned language. Although his performance tools were deceptively simple, Broemel’s musical composition and performance was anything but. Many of his songs began with a single guitar track and vocals on top; the loop pedal allowed Broemel to expand his sound by progressively layering harmonies, riffs, and rhythm on this steady foundation. The additive nature of the pedal meant that the sound increased in complexity linearly throughout the song–often reaching a climax at the point of greatest lyrical tension. The result of all this pedal stomping and shoegazing resulted in a sound that was grounded in human experience, yet extremely space-filling and satisfying.

Simonett’s solo sound represented a much greater departure from his work with a band; Trampled By Turtles’ version of progressive bluegrass became downtempo, melancholy folk. In contrast with Broemel’s complex, layered sound, Simonett’s songs consisted of nothing but guitar, vocal, and a harmonica that he hoped the audience wouldn’t find “too annoying.” (We didn’t.) But while Broemel sang of real-world heartache and experience, Simonett often focused on an abstraction of these concepts–he sang of the ideas of love and experience. It was this lyrical choice that added a unique philosophical weight to his music. While Broemel’s sound made me want to nod my head and partake in certain mentally-altering substances, Simonett’s music in many ways demanded a clarity of mind not often employed at concerts. While he sang and strummed the guitar, I couldn’t help but stand transfixed by the nearly meditative quality of his words. The intimate back room of the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro was a completely appropriate choice for this type of reflective songwriting, and allowed his performance to reach the audience in a way that would’ve surely been impossible in a larger venue.

Dave Simonett will continue touring his solo work with Dave Carroll through December.

– DJ Squeeze