Remember learning about double-blind studies in high school? Well, in case you’re not familiar, it’s where both the participant and the observer are equally—if not completely—oblivious to the actual outcome of the experiment at hand. Scientifically speaking, these types of studies are ideal since double-blind studies tend to yield more objective results. Under this pretense, I decided to play around with science, so I walked into Schubas without having a single clue of who (or what for that matter) Mr. Gnome really was.
Since I arrived fairly early, I decided to bum a smoke off a random before heading through the venue doors. Lo and behold, I happened to stumble upon a young chap who was friends with the group. Basically all he had to say was that they were amazing and that I was in for a treat. I figured as much. Who would go around saying, “Hey man, this show you’re about to go see is gonna suck the big one. And I mean it,” anyways?
For a sold out show, I was kind of bummed to see the crowd shrink down to a few scattered handfuls of people, but I didn’t let it get to me. I guess that 80s revival band before them scared all the people away—oh well, more room for us!
By the time Mr. Gnome takes the stage, I was very confused. I didn’t see any gnomes anywhere. Instead, a tiny girl (Nicole Barille) stands before the stage, and I can’t make out her face because she has this bushy ponytail covering it as if it were a veil shielding her from the elements. I study the stage very closely and notice two mics on the same mic stand. “What is this?” I asked myself. As soon as she begins strumming away into their first tune and the vocals become known to all, I figure out that it is an effects mic. I’ve never seen this kind of set-up before. Onstage there were a few guitars littered about, a full drum set, a mic stand with the odd little contraption attached to it, a keyboard near the drums, and right behind the throne where the man (Sam Meister) sat, I saw what appeared to be a MacBook Pro.
Naturally, they played many tracks off of their latest album, Madness in the Miniature, which featured tracks like “Capsize,” “Bit of Tongue,” and “Outsiders.” I really enjoyed hearing “Run For Cover” live, simply because you got to see just how easily she utilizes the looping effects for that track in which her vocals are tumbling over each other time and time again. Barille switched guitars three separate times and trust me, I counted.
For the most part, everyone enjoyed themselves. After the drunk guy in the front that was wildly strumming his air guitar tuxedo left, the crowd loosened up a bit and just took in the soft, cooing noises that left Barille’s mouth. It was like a successful encounter of a siren’s song, but instead of having the listener crash into the waves, Meister did all the crashing for us. On his drum set. Now, this percussionist is very talented, at one point he stopped to bang out a set on a tiny little piano that was chilling right beside him.
It was definitely a treat to see Mr. Gnome live in that they are musically spastic. Their sound is an ever-changing amoeba-like state that morphs flawlessly in and out of various time signatures. From the fast-paced drumming and guitar strumming of country western punk rock to a nice slow waltz drumbeat, this group covers a lot of musical ground. It was for this reason that I had concluded—very scientifically may I add—that I was very glad I officially popped my Schubas cherry to Mr. Gnome: I was hardly bored at all, the people were for the most part receptive to intelligible music, and the sound was just astounding.