mr. Gnome Show Review
Plush – St. Louis, MO
April 11, 2011
While driving to the mr. Gnome show, Wes, Todd, and I were having our weekly conference call to discuss the Top Ten list for the week, and just shoot the shit about music a little bit. It was during this conversation that I would identify a complaint about the soon-to-be-seen mr. Gnome show: It was weirdly uncomfortable to tell people that are not familiar with the band that I was spending my evening going to see a up-and-coming band called mr. Gnome. I didn’t know very much about mr. Gnome myself; just that they are a duo consisting of male drummer Sam Meister and female guitarist/vocalist Nicole Barille and also that they were known to rock pretty hard in the live setting.
Well, I still don’t know all that much about mr. Gnome, even though I have tried to research them a little bit. I found out at the show they are from Cleveland, OH and are actually married. But the genesis of the name of their band still escapes me. Were they childhood fans of the Nickelodeon classic, David the Gnome? Did they once drunkenly steal a lawn gnome and ironically name it mr. Gnome? Did they lose a bet?
I don’t know why this is the band name that I have decided to dwell on, but as stated earlier, the name is the only complaint I have from my evening with mr. Gnome. I rarely take it upon myself to gage the future success of any given band, but I would be fairly surprised if mr. Gnome didn’t catch a few breaks and blow up in the next year or so. After digging a little bit, it appears I am not the only one to share this thought. Rolling Stone named mr. Gnome a “Band to Watch”, and they were a featured band for SXSW’s “Artist Showcase” last month. So it’s not just me. Mr. Gnome is in for a big year.
The accolades received from Rolling Stone and SXSW are not squandered. Mr. Gnome is one of the most invigorating live acts I have ever seen. Let’s start with drummer, Sam Meister, who is among the greatest talents I have seen with sticks in his hands. What was amazing was how effortless he was able play, despite the constantly changing pace and direction the songs were taking. Also notable was the power with which Meister plays, making sure to elevate when needed to rise to the level of Nicole Barille’s crashing guitar riffs.
As impressive a musician Meister is, Barille is really meant to be the star of the show. From afar, Barille performing may be confused for Helena Bonham Carter in one of her stranger Tim Burton roles. This look only adds to her amazing vocals, which I could lazily describe as some sort of mix between Karen O and Bjork, but would instead urge you to seek out live and hear for yourself to get the full effect. Barille is no one-trick pony though, showing an amazing proficiency on guitar as well. Alternating between Sabbath-esque riffs and more unique timing-based guitar pieces, Barille can really do it all. There is nothing feminine or delicate about the way she plays her instrument, leading to a non-stop wall of pure rock.
^^^^Check out mr. Gnome’s frightening short film “Vampires”
My only complaint regarding the show is the length, which came in at under an hour and a half. This is typically a product of how much time the venue allots to the artist, or how much time the venue pays the artist to play for, so this can’t really be pinned on mr. Gnome. They have several LP’s and EP’s going back to 2006 though, and certainly have the material to play a longer set, so I look forward to seeing them play for 2-3 hours in the near future.
I kept on hearing many people around me compare mr. Gnome to The White Stripes or The Black Keys, which are pretty unfair labels to put on an up and coming band. Barille will never have the guitar chops or songwriting capabilities of Jack White, and gaining the current mainstream popularity of The Black Keys is probably a longshot. But this is not to mean that mr. Gnome will not find a very special (and hopefully very prevalent) place in popular music. All they have to do is find a way to get around that damn name.
^^^^Their latest EP contains the above track “The Way”, which seems like a song more conducive to the current indie scene. Which is not to say this track is not awesome, just not as hard-hitting rock as their other material.