Photos by Zakery Neumann
If Patrick Tape Fleming and Chris Ford weren’t already two of the biggest names in Iowa music, who’ve played shows before adoring crowds of thousands (with The Poison Control Center and Christopher the Conquered, respectively), Gloom Balloon would still be an easy sell. It seems like this group (it’s just the two of them) may actually be bigger in its own ways than the sum of its respective parts, taking things in truly new creative directions.
At times showy and bombastic (helped along the way with a video projection of sampled and re-purposed snippets from early ’90s commercials and PSAs), their show was also searingly intimate with both Ford and Fleming wandering through and addressing the crowd, often by name, making the evening feel almost like a church revival meeting — just with better music than organ-driven hymns and fewer snakes (That’s where they touch snakes, right?).
Any doubt that there was no “fourth wall,” and that the two dozen or so folks in attendance were as much a part of the show as the band was, was fully and completely smashed when Ford handed out instruments to a half dozen people and had them play along, just the sort of “we’re all in this together” experiential performance I’ve come to expect from many of their label mates on Maximum Ames Records like Mumford’s and Lesbian Poetry.
I hope they play at Carnegie Hall for tens of thousands of fans some day, with The Ghost of Lou Reed joining them on stage. They more than have the talent and imagination to pull it off, but on a relatively quiet Sunday night in the intimate confines of Gabe’s ground level, with the World Series playing in the background, a larger crowd would have taken away from what was a truly moving personal experience.
Information on Gloom Balloon’s ongoing tour and where to buy or download their brand new album, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster/Fix The Sunshine Pts. 1-7 (An Ode to Bill Doss) can be found on their website.