Allo Darlin’, Math & Physics Club, Special Places at Jewelbox Theater, Seattle | 29 October 2010
If there is a more perfect place than the tiny Jewelbox Theater to enjoy the precious pop of the likes of London’s Allo Darlin’ and Seattle’s Math & Physics Club and Perfect Places it likely only exists in my imagination or some storybook. After providing the secret knock to the theater door I entered into a Seattle’s small but familial indiepop world. Allo Darlin were a long way from home and I can only imagine here because of the enthusiasm of Three Imaginary Girls who booked the sold out show.
Allo Darlin’s album on Fortuna Pop came out earlier this year. It was recorded in the basement of the Duke of Uke shop in London, where people like Darren Haymen, and the Wave Pictures like to hang out and a place where Allo Darlin singer and ukulele player Elizabeth Morris probably had her choice of ukuleles to play while recording. Morris started off the set solo with a new song she called Talulah, that contained a line about listening to that Go-Betweens album on cassette. Usually I would assume that a song with an obscure reference to a Go-Betweens album would be lost on the audience, but I think it’s safe to assume that everyone in the room got it. The song was about as gentle and tender Allo Darlin would be this night.
The rest of the band then joined her on stage for what they referred to a slow-burn of a set. A slow burn according to the band is gradually turning up the heat as the night goes on. Their self-titled album on Fortuana Pop is fun and similar to Camera Obscura, but where Camera Obscura are stiff and standoffish on stage Allo Darlin’ are the types to put their arms around your shoulders and pogo with you until you’re out of breath. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bass player jump so high and still keep a beat as Mr. Bill Botting did. A good thing the place had a high roof because He and Morrise would get in sync on their jumping nearly every song and their verticals had to be about one and half to two feet. The band were definitely having a good time and everyone there to see them couldn’t help but have a good time too. Songs like Kiss Your Lips and If Loneliness Was Art raged full on almost making you question their twee roots. On the Polaroid Song they snuck in the chorus to the Bangles‘ Walk Like an Egyptian to everyone’s delight and the band’s as well as they were all grinning ear to ear. It was infectious, even after they left the stage and denied us of an encore, I couldn’t seem to wipe the giant grin from my face.
Hometown boys Math & Physics Club must have drawn the short straw back stage having to follow Allo Darlin, but their sublime understated set was a delight. This was the first chance that I got to hear the new songs from their second album I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do live. Maybe I pay more attention to guitars these days, but I don’t remember them sporting Rickenbackers. Both James and Charles had shiny and shimmering ones and they looked as good as they sounded. Another thing I noticed that I had either forgotten or never picked up on was how meaty and bouncy the bass lines were. Before the final song when Ethan Jones and James Werle switched instruments, Jones noted as he picked up Werle’s guitar how his kid brother’s friend said to him when he found out Jones was in Math and Physics Club how his favorite MAPC bass line was for the one song he didn’t play bass. I was hoping that they would have come back out with Allo Darlin for a rousing rendition of We’re So DIY with Elizabeth Morris singing the Ya, oh ya’s while Tullycraft were in the audience. No such luck. No encores from Math and Physics Club either, but I counted myself fortunate having seen them as their appearances around town are all too rare.
I shouldn’t complain, half of Tullycraft, Jenny & Cori opened the show as the Special Places. Jenny was sporting a newly acquired accordion which she said she just learned to play a few days before. The keys had stickers on them to remind her where to put her fingers as Cori pointed out after a false start. Their set was totally DIY and off the cuff, but their acoustic songs felt like a breath of fresh air wafting through the the tiny theater.