With the temperature falling outside, Smug Brothers did their soundcheck prior to going live at 9 p.m. on CD 102.5’s Frontstage Live in the Big Room Bar. They had been told that the other band on the bill had vehicle troubles on their way from Kentucky, and wouldn’t be able to make it to the show in Columbus.

Their plans for a quick set fell by the wayside. Unfazed, Kyle Melton (vocals/guitar), Larry Evans (bass/vocals), Brian Baker (guitar) and Don Thrasher (drums) took to the stage for an unexpected extension of their set.

They launched into 15-song set that spanned almost the entirety of their discography, playing five new tracks from their upcoming full-length release, “Disco Maroon” (available March 31, 2017).

Kyle Melton (Credit: Jacob Thompson/Music in Motion)

Opening with the radio-friendly My Little Crowd Pleaser from the new album, they kept the groove tight from the first note.

They rolled right into another new song, Hang Up. Melton’s vocals meshed nicely with the uptempo beat, his plaintive cry of “How did I ask you to just hang up?” sounding bittersweet and melancholy.

The understated rhythm of Meet a Changing World was enhanced by little flourishes from Baker’s guitar. Melton and Evans’ harmonies were simple and subtle, yet pleasing to our ears.

Concentration Lawns from the new album was driven by the backbone of Thrasher’s drums and Evans’ bass play. Melton didn’t hold back, with his emotive cry of “Tell me what you were thinking…”

An almost-tribal beat on the drums kicked-off yet another new track, Truly Awake is a Mistake. Melton vocals have a way of assaulting your synapses in non-abrasive manner that makes you feel his anguish and pain. The pace quickened until the song reached its climax.

Larry Evans (Credit: Jacob Thompson/Music in Motion)

At this point, Melton encouraged the crowd to move closer to the stage to bring a more intimate feel to the show. After they had gathered closer, the band became visibly more relaxed.

Evans’ deep bass groove announced the fifth new track of the evening, Smokefather. Although the song has a polished sound to it, there are points within the two-minute length that pay homage to their lo-fi, four-track days.

Making light of the fact that they were playing an extended set, the band joked that the evening had just become a live practice session. This, of course, elicited laughter from the crowd.

“We’re gonna do jazz in a little bit,” quipped Melton, with everyone in attendance firmly “in” on the joke.

The slower tempo of Venus Out at Night was highlighted by Baker and Melton’s guitar interplay, showing that they complement each other very well.

With Melton telling the crowd, tongue firmly-in-cheek, that “We’re seasoned professionals. Don’t try this at home,” the band channeled their inner-60’s bands with the sweet sound of (A Minute for) Ruby Skate.

Brian Baker (Credit: Jacob Thompson/Music in Motion)

Build Your Collections continued that serene summertime feeling. Once again, Melton and Evans’ harmonies were integral to whisking the listener away.

The crowd showed their appreciation after each song, prompting the band to channel that energy back into their music. It became self-perpetuating at this point.

The straight-forward rocker, A Short Time was enhanced with Thrasher throwing little flourishes into his drum fills. They kept that upbeat tempo going with Teach Them a Slide. Melton has a way of making the melancholy seem okay, even after telling you “a wounded soul does not forget…”

A Thing for English saw the band nestled right into the sweet-spot of the groove, clearly feeding off the crowd.

At this point, Evans stated, “That’s the end of the prepared part of the program.” This brought laughter from the crowd, as the band went jokingly back-and-forth with what they should play next.

Melton and Baker played about twenty-seconds of The Beatles “I’m So Tired,” before giving up on that idea.

Don Thrasher (Credit: Jacob Thompson/Music in Motion)

How Different We Are, the penultimate song of the evening, had Melton once again putting great feeling into his vocals. He has a knack for making the listener feel what he’s feeling, giving a better understanding of the song at hand.

They treated the crowd to a very tight version of Interior Magnets to close their set. It was plainly evident that the band was having a good time and wanted to make sure that the fans went home with a smile on their faces.

Beyond the music, what made this a memorable evening was the easy banter between the band and the crowd. It was if the band was playing to a bunch of their friends, with no pressure to get everything completely correct. And the crowd loved them for it.

The five new tracks performed this evening portend “Disco Maroon” delivering a more polished sound from the Dayton rockers, while staying true to their lo-fi roots. March 31 cannot get here soon enough.

Setlist

  1. My Little Crowd Pleaser
  2. Hang Up
  3. Meet a Changing World
  4. Concentration Lawns
  5. Truly Awake is a Mistake
  6. Smokefather
  7. Venus Out at Night
  8. (A Minute for) Ruby Skate
  9. Build Your Collections
  10. A Short Time
  11. Teach Them a Slide
  12. A Thing for English
  13. I’m So Tired (The Beatles cover – snippet)
  14. How Different We Are
  15. Interior Magnets
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