The B-Side attended about a fifth of Noise Pop 2015, and to close out the nearly two-week-long, Bay-spanning festival, we made it over to NPHQ — located at the newly renovated Swedish American Hall — to hear the Irish solo act James Vincent McMorrow, along with openers Avid Dancer and Kevin Garrett.
Avid Dancer — the night’s solo performance by vocalist Jacob Summers — played a short set of chilled songs to a completely silent, dimly lit venue. On a Sunday afternoon, it was both a relaxing end to the weekend, but also a little too mellow for the seated audience to get pumped for the engulfing vocals of McMorrow to come. Humbly ending his brief moment in the spotlight, he praised the voices of the two performers with whom he was sharing the stage that night, stating “I don’t want to sing before these two.”
But he did, and when Kevin Garrett starting his performance, shooting straight into vocals, we understood Summers’ fear of opening the night. His voice held the audience in moments of falsetto and pared it down an octave or two, showcasing a beautifully smooth range that Garrett possesses. When Garrett took a moment to talk to the audience, it was timid but humorous, recounting moments of his tour across Canada with McMorrow — according to Garrett, Canadians “don’t understand weather; they need to figure it out.”
Mid-performance, Garrett invited McMorrow onto the stage to play a cover of Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene” that they’d been playing together through Canada, though at this point, Garrett was hoping that McMorrow would have mastered the piano to accompany his vocal performance. (He attempted about two bars before stopping to sing along with Garrett’s lead.)
To close out the afternoon, James Vincent McMorrow returned to play a solo performance with just his voice and various different guitars. Opening with more mellow hits like “We Don’t Eat,” he proceeded into an impressive display of his high vocal range that, at times, felt far too big for the intimate Swedish American Hall. Breaking up the incredibly resounding quality to his voice, he shared with the crowd that five years and one day ago, McMorrow’s first album, Early In The Morning, came out and “for an entire year, no one gave a shit,” which made the audience appreciate how far he has come, especially with the announcement of his impending third album.
McMorrow finished off the night, completely unplugged, by stepping down from the stage and playing his encore straight after his set, explaining that eye contact makes him feel awkward, causing the audience to laugh once more. Even without the help of a microphone, “And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop,” sounded like we were standing right next to him, which made us wish he had played the whole set that way.
Check out our photos from one of the closing performances of Noise Pop 2015.
Article and photos by Sam Putt