Show Review

Hannah Frankel
Ask any member of Chicago-based Gold Motel, solo project of The Hush Sound’s frontwoman Greta Morgan, and they'll attest that the supposed Cleveland Curse isn't restricted to its sports teams. Both times Morgan and her band have played here, they've been beset by the type of disaster that would incapacitate less plucky musicians, and both times they've refused to be trounced by pesky inconveniences like, say, not having a drummer. For the band’s first show in Cleveland (both have been at the Grog Shop), guitarist Dan Duzsynzski had to get his appendix out, and during their most recent visit, drummer Adam Coldhouse was stricken by a mysterious and virulent allergic reaction and ended up going to the hospital instead of his gig.

Despite their rhythm section deficit, Morgan & Co. didn’t hesitate to enlist the help of the audience and ply them with profuse compliments – “You guys gotta be our drummer…fuck yeah, Cleveland rocks! You rock by clapping, you rock by singing along, you rock by looking really cute…” In fact, the band was so encomiastic about Cleveland, particularly the attractiveness of its residents, that either a) they were trying to get laid by the entire city, b) everyone here is actually overwhelmingly hot, or c) they’re just really, really good sports.

Sans drummer, the band still managed to maintain their bright, punchy sound, reminiscent of a gauzier New Pornographers or a less neurotic Quasi or a less Paul Simon-y Vampire Weekend or a spunkier Camera Obscura, or, oh hell, The Beach Boys. The band actively courts the Beach Boys comparisons – their album Summer House was written in SoCal, their Myspace page cites the brothers Wilson as an influence, and Morgan has avowed in interviews that Summer House is…wait for it… a “summer album.”

Morgan is a Chanteuse with a capital C; her flaxen mane, sequined Tina Turner dress, gold stilettos, and sassy croon are an almost embarrassingly earnest reminder of what “performer” entailed in the past and how far the navel-gazing, fey acolytes of contemporary indie rock have strayed from their exuberant, hip-shaking roots. The band galloped through a dynamic set of would-be pop hits, the lack of drums affording their retro torch songs a loungey flair, and the enthused audience sang along, even when they clearly didn’t know the words. Notable songs included the masochistic “Who Will I Be Tonight?” (I asked Morgan after the show if she intended the lyrics, which I had misheard as “You poke me once, you poke me twice,” as a Facebook reference or a barrel-scraping euphemism for sex, and she laughed heartily and told me she was singing “broke,” not “poke”), and what the band claimed was “the most non-metal song” they have, “Make Me Stay,” as well as the infectious, swoony girl group-throwback “Perfect In My Mind” (representative lyric: “Everything is just fine/so long as I’m by your side/it’s perfect in my mind”). Feminist anthems these ain’t, nor are they very cerebral, but Morgan’s plaintive woman-done-wrong lyrics are uncannily apt for the band’s ill-fated but determined appearances in Cleveland – we broke them once, we broke them twice, but hopefully they’ll keep coming back for more, because they put on a damn good show.