Seeing a show at the Vera Project can either be one of the best times you have had in a while, or painfully awkward and forced. Depending on whom you see and when you see them are big factors in this. When I entered the Vera Project on a Tuesday night I thought I would be in for the latter. What started out as only a handful of people in attendance at the beginning of the evening turned into a full fledged dance party by the time Danielson were in full swing. It has been five years since Danielson released the much lauded Ships, and with their latest release Best of Gloucester County they continue presenting pop anthems buried in yelps and uniforms.
Say what you want about who Daniel Smith is as a person, but there is no doubt that as an artist Smith is in his own world. Presenting a very hand crafted musical and visual experience, Danielson set up a row of silver flags with eyes painted on them as a backdrop. Walking on stage, the trademark uniforms were worn by mostly newer members. No longer a “family” band in the traditional since, Smith has recruited a few new faces to complete the touring line up. As Danielson started the evening, they went almost track by track through the new material. I was enjoying the music, but looking around it seemed like I may have been the only one. There was almost zero movement from the audience. This took a dramatic change as Smith prefaced their next song “People’s Partay,” by talking about the epic conga lines that took place in other cities on the tour so far. Determined not to be outdone, this crowd took the high road and conga lined like professionals, even changing directions at one point. This was the ice-breaker, so to speak, and from that point forward most in the crowd were wiggling like they were socially safe in their living rooms. Danielson played mostly material from the Best of Gloucester County, with the only older cut consisting of 2006 favorite “Did I Step On Your Trumpet” for an encore. Smith seemed to attack every song with yelps and screams, turning bright red as the evening progressed. Danielson were consummate musicians, not missing a beat and taking a Seattle crowd from social awkwardness to joyful revelry in a mere hour.
Two locals opened the show. Seattleite Shannon Stephens started the night off with soft vocals and a sparse backing band. Having released her latest record on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmattic Kitty label, I was surprised to hear music that my mom would probably love. Anacortes producer/engineer extraordinaire Karl Blau also took the stage and had the most interesting concept of the evening. Bringing up several one-stringed instruments, Blau recruited people from the audience to come up and be in his band. Playing all improvised material, the “band” stumbled through a few songs ranging from jam-band stompers to post-punk. This proved to be entertaining at first, but two songs in it started to feel like someone was not prepared to play that night. However, Blau did in the end kick everyone off stage and played a few numbers, including “Mockingbird Diet.”