It is often tempting to judge music by the numbers. More often than not, bands are touted based on the sum of “likes,” “views,” or other meaningless abstractions of the digital dimension. “A crowd attracts a crowd” goes the old aphorism. But while a roomful of bodies can certainly liven up a show, the greatest bands are the ones who bring their own energy and remember that, when you’re a real performer, the number of people in front of you really means nothing. Saint Motel is one of those bands, and they proved it last Thursday at SOhO.
Having just returned from a showcase at this year’s South by Southwest festival, these four dudes found themselves singing to a sparse set of ears in S.B. Soon, though, bodies were lured in by their up-tempo energy, handsome vocal harmonies, and charming songwriting skills. Classy jams like “At Least I Have Nothing” and their latest single, “Honest Feedback,” showed off Aaron Sharp and A/J Jackson’s dueling guitar work, and a woozy cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” paid homage to their pop-rock lineage. But where they really shined was with “Day Dream Wet Dream Nightmare,” a major-key ballad with multiple movements, sinuous vocals, and a wonderfully uplifting ending chant that even inspired some folks to sing along.
There’s something simultaneously forward-thinking and classic about Saint Motel’s approach to songwriting that sets them apart from their peers. As they move on to record a new album, they will likely keep filling up the spaces in front of them, reminding us all of that one time a great band did their thing without a pesky crowd to get in the way.