Acts of all kinds pass through the roughened doors of North Howard Street’s Ottobar (last week’s show hosted the painful acrobatics of sword swallower Dai Andrew), but none epitomize the feel-good freedom of summer as well as Chicago-based band Gold Motel. Singer Greta Morgan and guitarist Eric Hehr rolled into Baltimore, a mere two-fifths of their five-piece ensemble, for an acoustic set.
Their debut album Summer House encapsulates the romance of a getaway vacation. Morgan possesses a clear, carrying voice that calls to mind windswept beaches, and suits the music beautifully. It’s easy to get caught up in the lightness of their melodies, but the lyrics speak of a melancholy, painful maturity that belies their easy-listening quality. The album explores the ins and outs of a relationship, focusing particularly on the needy interdependence between two people.
Nonetheless, if given the chance, hearing the songs with the full band proves infinitely more rewarding. The acoustic version, while charming in its own way, often pitted guitar against keyboard; in terms of sheer volume, the guitar often won. Additionally, the loss of bass and drums resulted in an unexpected lack of musical complexity as well – it often seemed that the acoustic guitar and keyboard merely echoed each other, repeating the same refrains with little variation.
Even so, Morgan and Hehr proved the most interesting part of the night. The combination of honest-to-goodness talent and hard-earned talent ensures that Gold Motel’s summer-infused pop melodies will linger long after the seasons have turned for the colder.
— Hsia-Ting Chang, Staff Writer