On Thursday, Slam Donahue played Glasslands along with Rochester-based eclectic indie band Joywave, and headliner Bear Hands. Now a 4-piece live, Slam Donahue jolted the start of the show with their nervously catchy pop hooks. Led by singer/guitarist David Otto and bassist Thomas Sommerville, they played through some newer tunes off their Hemlock Tea EP, including the super catchy lead track “C’mon C’mon” that we included on our Mixtape #4 last week. If that song sounded fun on the mix, live is way better. The live instrumentation really does what started out as a bedroom project justice. Another credit to their live show is the banter between Otto and Sommerville. During the set I was thinking, no wonder their songs are so fun and catchy. That’s what these dudes’ personalities are like. They’re not trying to be super serious and make music into hard work. They’re keeping it simple and chorus-focused, doing what they do to reflect who they are as individuals while relating to universal themes. In my opinion, that’s exactly what makes a band good.
It’s not just the catchy tunes on the surface. Slam Donahue is good musical therapy in the same way that songs about teen angst or whathaveyou are good. People still want to listen to music like that at times, because deep down most of us still like to revert back to a time when we could just whine about how things are unfair, and then get it out of our system so we could then collect ourselves and carry on like a more mature adult. Slam Donahue looks at the more upbeat side of things, but touches on the issues that make us feel like high school never ends, like the anxiety and excitement of having a crush on someone á la “C’mon C’mon,” or feeling accepted by your peers like “How to Be Cool,” and the anxiety that comes with change on “It’s Scary.”
Lead man Otto was hooded and clever with his unique nasally voice, sounding exactly as he does on record. Sommerville contributed the most between song one-liners. My favorite one was “We got two more songs left. Hopefully that’s enough for our guarantee.” Regardless of whatever deal they had with the venue, their guarantee for the crowd that night was that their music was something to get happy to. They recently released a video for “I Turn On,” which is unsurprisingly a perfect example of everything that is currently defining them.