San Francisco – This week saw the very beginning of an extensive tour in which indie mainstays The Dodos share the stage with Bay Area newcomers Springtime Carnivore. Springtime Carnivore is the ‘nom de tune’ of Greta Morgan, a circus performer-turned-chanteuse after a three-story fall from a tightrope broke her fibula. Luckily, she has made the transition rather gracefully, offering up bubbly, carefully layered indie pop with the help of her three-piece backing band. Their eponymous debut, released last fall, has already whet the collective appetite of throngs of eager listeners, as was evident at tonight’s show.
At first, the crowd was humble, but it grew, both in size and in enthusiasm, as soon as Morgan and her band took to the stage. Morgan herself took the helm with lead vocals and lead guitar, and behind her were her three compatriots taking up the reins in keyboard, drums, and bass. Most of the set featured the entire quartet, though Morgan herself took to the keys during one song (“Last One To Know”), and even played one song solo, with just her on guitar and vocals: the beautifully poetic ballad “Other Side of the Boundary.” It’s a song with lush vocals and gorgeous lyrics (though she played up the camp by asking her sound technician to crank up the reverb so it sounded ‘like we’re in a small cave together’).
The other six songs of the set were amazingly polished, especially for such a young band. They opened with the energetic “Creature Feature”—a later track on the album—that seemed to surprise the seemingly many attendees of the show who had never heard Springtime Carnivore before. The next track, “Keep Confessing,” had a very distinct peppy lo-fi feel to it, reminiscent of early Tennis tracks. (In fact, Greta Morgan kind of looks like Alaina Moore, with a dash of Kristen Bell tossed into the mix). Next came another slow song, “Two Scars” (‘It’s a metaphor!’—in response to a drunk concertgoer asking what exactly the ‘two scars’ were), though this one had a much heavier sound than “Other Side of the Boundary.”
The set’s last three songs were noticeably more amped-up, starting with the infectious head-bobbing sounds of “Sun Went Black,” which bled into the thumping percussion of “Collectors,” the album’s second track. The set concluded with the band’s most well-known song, and lead single of the album, “Name on a Matchbook,” which has been compared to early Peter Bjorn & John music and, again, Tennis.
Springtime Carnivore’s hometown show was pensive, fun, and extremely energetic. Greta Morgan’s attitude and banter were perfect, especially when she announced it was her birthday and then proceeded to list off the celebrities she (and an audience member!) shared her birthday with (Abe Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and Arsenio Hall, to name a few). And what acoustics! Great American Music Hall has great equipment, the venue is beautiful, and the crowd is always into it. (Kudos to the sound tech for mixing the show so well: I was standing by the subwoofer and felt every plunging bass drum tone go up through my feet and into my very core.)
Of course, Springtime Carnivore deserves most of the credit. To see such a young band perform so seamlessly is inspiring, and can only mean good things for the future. Greta Morgan may have faced the cruel face of destiny in suffering such a horrific accident—dashing her big-top dreams—but it looks like the horizon is bright for her band. Step right up and grab a ticket to one of the best shows of the year if you get the chance.
Springtime Carnivore’s tour with The Dodos goes through mid-March, and then they will be hitting the road with of Montreal (as was announced at the show, though no official dates have been listed quite yet). For more info, visit their website or Facebook page.
Photos of Springtime Carnivore by Corey Bell