great lake swimmers [2009]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
3 April 2009

Okay, so they no longer make the PB&J sandwich at Bottom of the Hill. This is not a new thing, but the wound is still fresh. I ask after it each visit and I’ve never got a satisfactory answer. Nothing less than an injustice.

Thankfully, the grilled cheese is pretty good. And yet, it’s certainly no replacement. I feel that, to fully embrace the grilled cheese would be to turn my back on the PB&J entirely and dishonor it’s memory.

And so the grilled cheese is just pretty good.

There is no logical segue from grilled cheese to Great Lake Swimmers. It’s just not there. Not going to happen.

GLS are soft and warm, like some sort of comfort food that you’d want to cuddle up with. They make you want to hug your neighbor or toss her to and fro (depending on whether it’s a fast or slow song).

Each of the bands elements exudes warmth: the instrumentation (acoustic guitar, banjo, standup bass, harmonica), the sweet melodies, but perhaps most of all – the vocals.

Whether it’s Tony Dekker’s solo voice or in harmony with band member Julie Fader, it’s pure and welcoming. The clarity and gentleness of Dekker’s voice approaches that of Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam. And I don’t say that casually.

At their best, GLS are unaffected, soft and beautiful. At their weakest, GLS stray too far off towards straight ahead, bland folky rock (frankly, Shins territory). Thankfully, though, those moments were few and far between.

And really, if that’s their worst…