On May 22nd, 2018 I walked into Boston’s Royale. Passing the merch table for Jukebox the Ghost, my eyes caught a glimpse of a t-shirt in the far right corner plainly stating “The Greeting Committee.” I pushed myself into the crowd eager to see one of my favorite bands perform. But before the main event, I had to sit through another opening act.
Voices bubbled as the lights dimmed and three men walked out on stage. They hit their instruments hard. Guitars wailing, the bass shaking me. I could feel the drums behind my eyeballs. I rolled my eyes.
“Great, another punkish popish three piece boy band* here to sing the same sad songs I’ve heard a million time-”
I never got a chance to finish my snarky comment as a young woman bounded onto the stage in a red jumpsuit.
In my memory it was a single twenty foot bound that carried her to center stage. Descending like The Phantom from the rafters. A poor stagehand had to follow after with her mic cable to make sure she didn’t clothesline her bandmates.
All thoughts of snarky comments left my head.
There were four of them on stage that night, Lead Singer Addie Sartino, Pierce Turcotte on bass and saxophone, Brandon Yangmi on guitar, and Austin Fraser on Drums.
The crowd that night was tough, but they put performed as if a whole stadium was screaming their names.
Personally the emotional peak of the set was the first time I got to hear Dancing to Nothing at All. Halfway through the song their bassist Pierce hands off his bass to Addie and breaks out into a Springsteenian saxophone solo the song crescendos into this wonderful cacophony of sheer emotion. What starts out as a relatively slow and sparse song swells into an absolute wall of expression. I was floored. I was in tears.
Dancing to Nothing at All exemplifies so many of the reasons you, yes you, should be listening to The Greeting Committee. Throughout the song you get to hear each member of the band shine and bounce off each other. From Brandon and Pierce riff together on guitar and saxophone respectively. To the way Austin’s drums support, yet elevate the playing. And at the end when Pierce tempers his saxophone to Addie’s yearning refrain:
If you’re gonna love someone, let it be me.
It’s been a really long time since a band has captured such a specific feeling about love and life that resonates with me so deeply. They make grand declarations feel incredibly intimate. Dancing to Nothing at All is such a huge song about such a simple moment. Two people, young and in love dancing alone in a house. And through that song, they bring you there. It’s not some generic song about some generic person who the singer is generically in love with. It’s this vivid moment with real people, in a real world. Not some generic vacuum.
On the song Elise we’re once more brought into a love song full of intimacy and grandeur, yet incredibly grounded in reality. You can really feel these moments happen, the world building in these songs allows for such an easy empathetic connection to be made. Pulling the words out of you that you never knew you needed to say.
In a back car seat, reminding me
That even in a wreck,
I’ve got someone for holding.
And they’re able to bring this intimate grandeur to pain and heartache as well. On the track I Don’t Mind we play witness to a breakup:
Comfort can’t exist
I never felt it in your lips
You used your skin as weapon
When the right words wouldn’t fill in
Their ability to make tangible intangible moments through both lyricism and musicality. The playing so beautifully matches what the lyrics are portraying.
They weave in and out of difficult topics so beautifully and gracefully, such as in Birthday Song. There we are painted a portrait of a broken home. With dashes of negligent parents. Streaks of broken promises. And the contrasting shadows of the pain and suffering that comes from a home that falls apart. Live it’s just Brandon and Addie on stage. Sitting there. There’s no theatrics, there’s no jumping anymore. No shouting. Just the song speaking for itself. The song ends with the audience singing together, all kinda teary eyed. As intimate as if you’re gathered around the cake in the song.
The Greeting Committee isn’t trying to be too cool for their emotions. There’s no glib irony in their songs. It’s the pure empathetic transference of emotion. Even on their poppier tracks like Don’t Go still bursts with earnest expression of love and bickering. The song wonderfully addresses the difficult push and pull of a relationship without any snark or snide. The song is full of vulnerability without feeling weak of begging. The strength of the music behind it gives power to the vulnerable nature of the subject.
I know I pushed you to before
I’ll never make it on my own
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go, don’t go
I can’t say that all the songs are autobiographical, nor do I want to. But to me the beauty of The Greeting Committee is that they feel autobiographical.
I remember being very very young and listening to Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and my father having to explain to me that it’s not real, there isn’t actually a Rosalita Bruce is searching for.
Maybe that’s where so much of my fondness for The Greeting Committee comes from. Not to make everything about Bruce Springsteen, (even though I can make literally anything about Bruce Springsteen) but so much of what I love about Bruce Springsteen, especially early Bruce Springsteen, you can find in The Greeting Committee. The world building, the yearning, the intimacy, the grandeur, the feeling that somewhere at sometime this happened to somebody. The ability to turn abstract concepts into songs that express everything you’ve ever wanted to say.
The Greeting Committee are brave, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Opening for bands with rabid fan bases who might not know them. Rabid fan bases who resent the idea of an opening band purely on principle, just like I did. But every night they’re showing people why they should love them. The Greeting Committee is one of the most fun, energetic, and honest bands I’ve ever encountered. Once their given the full stage to headline their own tour they’re going to rule the world.
I was lucky enough to meet Pierce and Addie when they came to Boston last Monday. I was able to tell them how much I loved them and how much their music means to me.
I hope this essay convinces you to listen to them, and go see them on tour. I hope then you can feel the things I’ve felt and more and tell them how much their songs mean to you. Because I don’t know if I know of a band right now that deserves to be loved as much as The Greeting Committee.
You should be listening to The Greeting Committee because for my money no one is writing songs as consistently visceral or empathetic as they are. For my money no one is putting on as fun of a show as they are. Time after time I can go back and listen to the same songs by The Greeting Committee and I can feel just as much as I did that rainy night standing in the Royale.
Your Fool and More,
Bailey F. Olmstead
P.S. Here’s a lil playlist to show you some of my favorite songs by them, some not even mentioned in this essay!
*I’m aware of the irony of saying this at a Jukebox the Ghost Show, a band that is piano punkish popish.