Sweet & Low

by Jonah

Low played here in Colorado Springs Friday night. We found out about it a week ago, and excitedly bought tickets online. Due to some miscommunication, Berck decided on Friday that he couldn’t go, since he had to work early the next morning. So I went by myself.

Low’s trademark sound is playing and singing very, very slow tempo songs. They are Zak Sally on bass, Mimi Parker on drums and vocals, and Alan Sparrowhawk on guitar and vocals. Parker and Sparrowhawk are married. I don’t think we have to worry about them splitting and breaking up the band, because they’re Mormon.

Parker’s “kit” is made up of one tom, one snare, and two cymbals (she added a second cymbal for this tour). Since she doesn’t have any pedals to stomp, she plays standing up. She uses mallets and brushes but never sticks. And, of course, she plays very slow.

Sparrowhawk plays guitar, but not very well. Whenever he would try to break into a solo, he would hit wrong notes half the time, then wince. When you play very slow songs, you don’t usually have to be good on the guitar.

What he is good at is singing and writing songs. He and Parker’s voices blend so beautifully well. They sounded even better in concert than they do recorded.

For an example of how slow they play, this song is four minutes and ten seconds long. And the lyrics don’t repeat.

i remember every number
i remember graduation
i remember painted faces
no they couldn’t believe it was you
i knew

(You can actually watch a video of them playing this song in a live performance on their website.)

One of the advantages of singing so slowly is that it’s much easier to understand the lyrics during a live show.

Also, I was one layer away from the stage. The Black Sheep Pub where they played here is just an empty building with concrete floors with bar at one end and a stage at the other. That’s all they do is give concerts. A good proportion of the people in attendance didn’t seem to know who the heck Low was. Among the orange hair, cat glasses, baggy jeans, and shaggy dos, a couple of frat boys and one of their big-haired girlfriends kept settling in front of me, no matter where I stood. I hoped they would get tired trying to figure Low out and leave, and that’s exactly what happened after about four songs (about the same time Parker hit a cymbal for the first time that evening).

Sparrowhawk and the bassist set up their own equipment before the show, then Parker came out and started a beat. The small crowd in the building kept chatting and conversing as the band started playing (what to only those of us who love them was recognizable as) a song. I wasn’t sure if we should clap at the end. Was a beathouse snapping more in order? But all of those crowded around the stage (except for the Greeks) broke into applause at the end.

I stood up front, making my right ear even more deaf than it is already is, until I was too tired, then retired to the rear of the room and sat at one of the tables by the bar. The volume level was about right back there, but people watching provided a fascinating distraction. Three goths walked in (although I suspect they were really only posers). People were getting increasingly drunk and clumsy. A morbidly obese fellow kept hugging and kissing his anorexic girlfriend, who was in a skirt that barely covered her rear.

I left at their first encore. It was already 11 pm.

We need to get the balance of their albums so Berck can hear what he missed.

Leave a Reply