Calico Blue and Spirit Ghost rock Greeno

By Peadar Angelone

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Calico Blue and Spirit Ghost raised expectations with an on-campus performance on Tuesday in anticipation for their Thursday night Northampton concert at Iron Horse Music Hall. It’s hard to find a reason to keep away and not embrace the garage-style vibe that got all of Greeno Sub Shop moving on Tuesday night. There’s no doubt that the back-to-back performances from Calico Blue and Spirit Ghost had the Greeno audience feeling their music deeply.

Calico Blue’s style is a blend of “surfer, jazz, blues and rock” said their lead singer, Sarah Addi.

The band’s lyrics speak to the remorseful soul that guides their tone. The line “I know you’ve been running around, but I came across it in a dream,” speaks to the longing for things lost that runs through much of their music. However, their songs don’t lead their listeners into the anguish of want. Instead, Calico Blue produces beauty amongst melancholy that could easily be missed if one doesn’t listen carefully.

The line, “don’t you know that you’re the only ending” from “Two” speaks volumes to the loss of a love who won’t return, but isn’t so brutally candid as to be read plainly. Nor does it force tears from the listener. Unlike many of the wasted lyrics that pass through our heads, “don’t you know that you’re the only ending” invites one to explore, should they wish, the grand lifelong expectations applied to those we love as well as the great anguish that comes when that dream is deferred.

Lead singer Addi, from Franklin, Mass., got together with Calico Blue at UMass. Thursday’s show was her second time performing at the Iron Horse, although the first time was with a jazz group back in high school. The band has made a playing field out of the local music scene, an area that Addi describes as, “The New York-Boston-Western Mass triangle.”

Alex Whitelaw, who leads vocals and guitar for Spirit Ghost, describes his music as “surf garage rock with some jazz influence.” Live, it’s like getting a dose of real rock on Red Bull. Greeno definitely gave the band a nice vibe leading up to Thursday. With Greeno as their kickoff performance of a national tour, it’s certainly a positive thing that they have good energy going into Iron Horse.

It’s no understatement to say that Spirit Ghost had many people in the building either swaying their bodies, or rocking their heads, should the tone demand it. They certainly have no problem making a venue feel as though it’s completely in touch with the performance.

There’s a youthful, sometimes bashing energy that gives Spirit Ghost’s songs their spark. With lyrics like, “I like when your hair’s down and the sun’s drippin’ off your skin” from “Young in a Garden,” the band employs a sense of youth and a little recklessness in the summer, a sentiment that is better realized with the dangerously quick pulse of the song.

But besides the raw energy that fuels so much of Spirit Ghost’s music, there’s an ability to be somber and mournful should they want it. “Turn my teeth to gray ‘cause my smile just ain’t the same” from “Night Terror”’ drifts into an even more remorseful tone with a follow-up of, “haunt my dreams and days, I told you my heart will never change.”

Lyrically versatile and stunningly energetic, Calico Blue and Spirit Ghost offered the UMass community a special opportunity to experience their live performance before going public at the Iron Horse. Spirit Ghost will continue on their cross-country tour.

Peadar Angelone can be reached at [email protected]