Lawn and Garden Refugees: mr. Gnome at the Knitting Factory
photo by the author
Despite online coverage in Rolling Stone and Spin, being one of LA Weekly’s picks of the week and having their set pushed back to the 11:00 pm prime-time slot, Cleveland-based duo mr. Gnome was greeted by an anemic crowd of eight as they took the stage in the Knitting Factory’s small room last Friday.
Regardless of the turnout, the near-empty space was overwhelmed within moments by an unlikely marriage of tenebrous sonority and frenetic noise, fueled by blog-darling rock power couple Nicole Brielle (guitar, vocals) and Sam Meister (drums, keys and random off-mic vocals).
If you took that aborted fetus that PJ Harvey was whining about in “Down By The Water,” resuscitated it, then had it raised by wolves who listened to nothing but Tool, Black Sabbath and Lisa Germano, you’d be on the right track to understanding something about what mr. Gnome is up to, made all the more impressive when you factor that these two perform with all the proficiency ascribed by those artists despite purportedly taking up their respective instruments just a few years ago.
Touring in support of their recent release, Deliver This Creature, mr. Gnome ripped through “Pirates,” “Rabbit” and “Deliver This Creature,” addressing the material with the kind of subconscious insouciance that comes only from artists who have been touring and playing the same songs every night for weeks. A warren of tight twists, turns and investigations of dialectics, their music revved from whimper to cheese grater in zero seconds flat, never in danger of losing its full effect at any point during the night.
mr. Gnome is further a visual punch line, with the hulking Meister nearly dwarfing his kit and Brielle’s petite frame in constant danger of being overcome by her guitars. To this end, she utilized a step stool to great effect, teetering on its highest peak to careen like an errant willow over her larger half’s drum set, granting the couple as much possible proximity while providing an additional unbalanced tableau that matched in physical terms the music they created.
By the time they arrived at “Night Of The Crickets” — the closest thing mr. Gnome has to a hit in this post-broadcast age — their crowd had doubled in size to 16 (including people they were traveling with and members of other bands), none of whom seemed less than impressed with the performance, and rightly so.
The only thing mr. Gnome seems to be lacking is a booking agent who can get them into the correct venue on Los Angeles’ east side, where an undoubtedly larger, more receptive audience awaits. Until then, they remain one of the most intriguing new acts in music and one to watch.