Tag Archives: Desperate Spirits

Arts

Fresh Big Fresh

The cover photos for the Big Fresh’s sophomore LP release entitled Sweeps denote a certain image, a picture of nostalgia for a time when some of us were in our foundational age, young children surrounded by neon colors, living through the country’s desperate grasp on the wholesome ideal of the fifties while we heard about the Cold War on the huge TV that sat as the central focus in every house of privilege.

Their photos are intentionally set to look like the TV Guide covers of those days, when sitcoms were the unifying force for us all, what was talked about the next day at school, what folks looked forward to from week to week. As we were kids then, it seemed simpler times.

Big Fresh

The sound is all Big Fresh. The techno, synthesizer-heavy lightness of the eighties, the vocal harmony of backing vocals, the electronic sound that was emblematic of those times. Here’s a sampling:

Cosmos Song featuring Reva Russell English

Hottie Tottie featuring Ryan Hover and Chris Dennison

Uh Oh featuring Per Sunding and Karen Hover

Additional songs on the Sweeps EP include The Voices featuring Ken Stringfellow, and I Found Out featuring Tim Welch.

Yet the singers and musicians in Big Fresh are grown now, with kids of their own, and the experience of growing up to know that those really weren’t simpler times, that there is no simple time, gives Big Fresh the authority to claim and redefine this music as their own. “I Found Out” is a perfect example of this, a song that feels light and airy but seems to be discussing an angst only earned by living.

Big Fresh is a large collective of Lexington musicians, including Daniel Coy, Jeremy Midkiff, Ben Fulton, John Ferguson, Dave Farris, Nick Coleman, Ben Phelan, Faith Diamond, Bryan Gore, Brian Conners Manke, Matthew Clarke, Kate Drof, Kim Conlee and Trevor Tremaine. All of these people are also in ATTEMPT, and several are in numerous other bands as well. For John Ferguson, however, Big Fresh is “The project that is most near and dear to my heart…Big Fresh is specifically pop songs that are a little easily digestible.” These bands, along with Italian Beaches and Jeanne Vomit-Terror, all share members and are all putting out LP’s on the Desperate Spirits label, which they started.

Desperate Spirits is a local creation by the above mentioned, where they put out vinyl LP’s from their collective band of madly talented musicians. Sweeps is one of three albums they will have produced this year, not bad for a labor of love being done by working folks with a passion for music. They choose to produce “Vinyl artifacts” instead of putting out music digitally, which has its benefits and perks of course, “but to have this object, this artifact, you’re creating something that can be archived into history somehow. Even if we’re doing it for ourselves, there’s this physical thing we can hold.”

The album is the second of a set, the first Big Fresh LP called Fall Preview was released last year. The new LP Sweeps is a bold follow-up to the first. Each song, while resonating Ferguson’s vision of lighter, pop type songs, shows diversity between the songs, each one holding its unique place in the group. “Cosmos Song” features the female vocalists in the band, layering electronic songs in a haunting, enveloping way that wraps through the speakers. The LP starts and ends with “Hottie Tottie” and “The Voices”, respectively, more upbeat electronic sounds with robotic vocal overdubs, but then lead into and out of the more existential songs in the middle. Diverse and vibrant, the whole LP is a masterful orchestration of the surface level optimistic consumerism of the 80’s matched with the more accessible daily struggle of the daily life of jobs, kids and life.

Reflecting their lives as parents and to appease an audience of the same generation, Big Fresh will have their record release as a brunch, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 19th at The Burl. The Doodles food truck will be there and it is an all ages show.  Big Fresh hopes to be “mindful of how difficult late night shows are, how exclusive those shows are. Such a niche audience, we would like to branch out to other opportunities.”

After the record release, Big Fresh will be playing Sept. 8th at the Tahlsound Festival on Southland Drive, another daytime show that is all ages friendly. Ferguson spoke at length about what a supportive community Lexington is for the diverse talents of the folks on the Desperate Spirits label. “Lexington is great in that way in that everyone kind of supports everyone else. It is a very inclusive and supportive community.” The variety of shows that people around town can enjoy speaks to this inclusion.

Arts

Scene&Heard: Kim Smith

The show had already begun to exceed expectations when I was asked to leave my shoes at the door.  The Source on High is a peaceful space, used for yoga and meditation. In a side room: sensory deprivation tanks invite one’s restless soul.  Punched-tin lights hang from the ceiling and beneath their glow we settle in on pillows and woven blankets. 

Before us: a promising array of instruments, silently awaiting the Lexington band, Frigid Kitty.

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They do not remain silent for long. It’s early on a Sunday evening in April.  This is not your typical night of live music at a bar; not at all.  Every month, the fantastic diversity of music available in this city excites me, whether at a festival, an established venue, someone’s living room, or a yoga space, Lexington provides.  The Source on High is just such a promising space.

Frigid Kitty takes the stage, with Kim Smith at its center.  She introduces her bandmates, a new and different arrangement of Frigid Kitty for this special evening.  Along with Kim on keys, flute and guitar are her husband Chris Smith playing bass and guitar, Sam McWilliams on guitar and vocals, and guest Garret Spear playing percussion and flute.

While the first song emphasizes Kim’s keyboard skills, the immediate impression is of a beautiful layering of instruments. It’s a notable characteristic found throughout this collection of songs. Smith’s keys are joined by McWilliam’s gentle guitar picking, the bass carries the foundation while the cajon drumming provides cadence and momentum.  Throughout the set, each musician changes instruments at least once, showing adept musical versatility.  At one point we’re treated to a flute duet with between Kim and Garret.

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The music Frigid Kitty performs on this night is quite ethereal, and fitting in this unique space.  As the springtime sun begins to set, the lights provide a subtle glow as the room becomes enclosed in a softening darkness.  The orchestral arrangements of the instruments drift and mingle like an impressionistic painting.  The lyrics, a collaborative effort from Chris, Kim and Sam, are conversational, carried easily along by the arrangements.

The set ends with Kim back on lead vocals and guitar, singing “Keep it to Yourself”, a Smith original with a cute, flirty, old-time sound that brings the set to a close with a light, easy vibe.

Cara chatted with Kim about the show and what made it special…

The effect of this marriage of music and performance space is surreal.  The Frigid Kitty set is followed by the twelve string dexterity of Sarah Louise, and finally the spiritual creativity of Everyone Lives, Everyone Wins.

In retrospect, magic happened that night at The Source, and beauty was created.  Lexington never fails to deliver to those who seek such in the various spaces around town.

Kim Smith has played in many of these spaces.  Her life has been a long journey of music, even when she set such pursuits aside to explore academia and travel. The conversation moved beyond the immediate…

Raised by accomplished musicians, her father a band director, her mother an orchestra and chorale director with her own piano studio, Smith is a musician by definition.  She moves effortlessly between piano, flute, guitar, and cello, having played piano and cello as a child. She sings and plays in a growing collection of bands, including her own Frigid Kitty. 

Formerly the keyboard, flute player and vocalist in the now-defunct Bear Medicine, in the last year Smith has immersed herself in numerous musical projects around town.  Besides Frigid Kitty, Smith is in Big Fresh (click to listen to the new song, Paralyzed.) She fills us in on the band’s latest project…

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Desperate Spirits- LR: John Ferguson, Trevor Tremaine, Rob Theakston, Kim Smith

She also is a member of ATTEMPT.  Sharing several members, these two bands host a wealth of musicians who all contribute diverse talents.  Trevor Tremaine, John Ferguson, David Farris, Nick Coleman, Dave Cobb and Ashley Smith all join Kim Smith in ATTEMPT, while Big Fresh consists of John Ferguson, Ben Fulton, Ben Phelan, David Farris, Nick Coleman, Faith Diamond, Brian Connors Manke, Bryan Gore and Matthew Clarke.  With some crossover in members, both groups coexist and will be heading out on a large, eleven person tour this June to include performing with Lexington’s beloved Matt Duncan and his band in NYC. 

Here’s more on the tour…

Big Fresh and ATTEMPT are both represented by Desperate Spirits, a label started by Kim Smith along with John Ferguson, Trevor Tremaine and Rob Theakston.  The label is releasing several EP’s this year for both bands as well as Italian Beaches. 

In addition, Smith also keeps in touch with her classical roots as a member of The Rosemont Trio.

Kim Smith is a force to not be contained, and she represents the Lexington music scene with adept ease.  With her hands in numerous projects that help foster and collaborate with so many other local musicians, she is a pivotal aspect of the strength of our city’s live music scene.  With her bands, the label she has helped start to help other local musicians get their music out into the world, the lessons she teaches weekly to children and adults seeking more music in their lives, as well as side projects such as the local all-female LP she is organizing to raise money for Planned Parenthood, Kim is one of those women who just keeps on persisting, and doing Lexington proud.

What’s next?

You can catch Kim Smith with Big Fresh at Al’s Bar Block Party on April 29th, and ATTEMPT will be playing the Tahlsound Music Festival on Southland Drive in May. 

Frigid Kitty hopes to be in the studio this year working on their first CD. 

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