Last Week Live: Gold Motel

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.

Gold Motel consists of a strange conglomeration of music scene veterans. Morgan, nee Greta Morgan Salpeter, toured extensively with pop rock outfit the Hush Sound. Hehr played in Chicago-based bands such as Villains of Verona and the Yearbooks, while the three missing members of the band – Adam Coldhouse, Matt Minx, Dan Duszynski – belong to This is Me Smiling. Their combined years of experience certainly pay off.

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.

On tour with Mark Rose of Spitalfield fame, Gold Motel stopped by the Ottobar for an eight-song acoustic set. The two-piece managed to interest an otherwise staid audience, who seemed more interested in the duo than the supposedly headlining act. The songs, which included singles “Perfect in My Mind,” “We’re On the Run,” and “Safe in L.A.” translated well enough into the simple guitar, keyboard, and occasional tambourine format.

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
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