Last Thursday, Grand Lake played Amoeba Records in Berkeley as part of the Bay Area mini tour in celebration of their debut album, Nevermint. I'd seen the band once before - at a very crowded Uptown - and I think the band has significantly tightened since then, and the intimate record store environment was the perfect place to appreciate them. What stood out for me watching this performance - which is easy to neglect when listening to a cd or mp3s - is the sheer quality of the musicianship. Read the band's bio and find that some of that musicianship is rooted in academia - guitarist Jameson Swanagon is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of music and keyboardist Erika Pipkin is a graduate of the composition program at Mills College.
Swanagon clearly knows his instrument well. The focus he maintains while playing is a joy to watch. But what is most striking about his guitar playing is his ability to break away from his technical knowledge and blaze his own trail with subtle, more rougher elements. Pipkin's keyboards and harmonizing vocals provide a bouncier, indie pop and even a bit of humor. Dummer Ryan Parks also writes songs for the band he fronts - The No'S - meaning that each member of the band brings a strong musical element in that clearly shines when they play live. Bassist and singer Caleb Nichols holds it down like a true frontman, injecting humor and confidence in his banter and lyrics.
One thing I thought watching Grand Lake was, "they look like they actually get along off-stage." Not always the case with bands. The Deli SF.