Diving for Gems at Union Pool
This past May I surprised my boyfriend with tickets to see his favorite band play in Hamden, CT. A small town on the outskirts of New Haven, Hamden is the last place you would expect to see a Dirty Projectors concert. Nevertheless, we made our short pilgrimage out of the city, stopped by Sally's Apizza for some coal oven deliciousness, and rolled into a dirt parking lot featuring a long flat building with a sign for "The Space." We were overcome with happiness when we realized the venue was tiny (holding max 200 people) and that David Longstreth, the lead singer, would be standing only inches away from us. The show was full of magic, despite the fact the sound in the room was suboptimal, and the band seemed to suffer slightly because of it. But the real magical conjurers of the evening were the three women on stage. Each simultaneously played an instrument and sang tight three-part harmonies, all while swaying to the beat in a goddess-like yet understated manner. In my humble opinion, their performances made the show...
So when I was looking for something fun to see on a Thursday night in BK and found Gemma, led by Felicia Douglass (percussionist/keyboardist/vocalist from the Projectors Goddess Trifecta), and Erik Gundel on guitar, I rushed to buy a ticket. The line-up started strong with PUCK, a duo led by Kaley Puckett and featuring Jelani Sei on bass. They performed a breathtaking cover of "Dreams," by Fleetwood Mac, that left the room speechless. Puckett's voice is strong and silky with a melancholic tone perfect for adding subtle nuances to such a well-known classic.
Check out PUCK on Soundcloud:
I stepped out for the second set - not my cup of tea - but came back in time for Gemma. The room was full at this point, and the band brought a fun, down-to-earth feeling as soon as they stepped on stage. Douglass's outfit was stunning: a white lace dress with a thin silver belt, black bike shorts, a beaded necklace, and a gorgeous pink flowing jacket (major Beauty School Drop-Out vibes). Her ensemble was complete with classic white Reeboks, which I have to admit, inspired me to buy the same pair. They started the set with a song from their first album, As Ever, called "Waking in the Fluff." Douglass's soft, airy vocals floated effortlessly above Gundel's lead guitar parts. The band as a whole is dynamic, vibey and consistently in the pocket. Douglass brought in the synth on each chorus, filling out the sound beautifully.
The set became progressively more danceable with each new song, a quality I admire in a musical set. In between the songs Douglass was unapologetically herself and even confessed something to the effect of, "I hate banter. It's so awkward. All the musicians in the audience, you know what I'm talking about." Yes, Felicia, yes, yes, I do! She was a majestic unicorn, and I couldn't take my eyes off her. The standout song of the night was "'Til We Lose The Feeling," and I left the venue singing the repeated and catchy phrase, "uh-huh uh uh uh-huh yeah." Here's a short clip:
Gemma / 7.11.19 @ Union Pool
For more on GEMMA, check out their site: https://www.gemmagroovs.com/