Music | Listener Drew Old Fans at Summit Music Hall | Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Since their conception in the early 2000’s, Listener has experimented with idiosyncratic poetic lyricism and crafted their distinct, underground sound. Frontman Dan Smith coined the term
“talk music” to aptly describe their sound which merges wide ranging genres, from spoken word, rap, and alternative, to country and folk. Their tracks consistently build into combustions of sentimental passion, spouting from Smith’s particular southern twanged vocals and disjointed, proclamative delivery. 

The band has gained momentum since their early beginnings playing basements, house shows, storefronts and underground venues across the country. Despite it being three years since their last release, they continue to play shows and tour almost relentlessly. Dan Smith has iterated that his passion for music stemmed from its ability to bring people together, and it has been this idea which lead to their current status, booking shows and building networks through the  undercurrents of American cities. 

They’ve expanded their audiences since their conception and gained international following. They’ve got a few shows planned around the U.S. during the following months before they leave to tour internationally in early June, playing a slew of shows across the U.K., Denmark, Germany, ending in Belgium. 

The three piece started off their set by congregating on stage sans shoes, holding hands jovially around the drumset. They dove into the first song off their most recent release, Time Is a Machine, 2013. Despite their high energy stage presence and candidness, there seemed to be something amiss. Between Smith’s trumpeting, passionate bouts of talk-singing, characteristically dramatic, low-tempo timing, and high frequency guitar riffs, the band was  misfiring. Unfortunately, Smith’s mic levels were pretty low, which means that the poetics which contain the meat and bones of their sound were hard to hear and a bit incomprehensible. Smith’s unrestrained mannerisms lead the mic to pick up on only a small portion. His visceral, imagetic poeticism which evokes raw, gritty and evocative emotion on their recordings, failed to come across. Although there were a few songs performed later in their set which were of lower volume, meaning the vocals were more easily heard, the crowd spent a good portion of their time trying to decode his somewhat muttered words. 

I first saw the band perform back in 2011. They were booking shows all over the place, evidenced by the venue they played: a two roomed house-turned-massage-parlor in the depths of downtown San Diego. It sounds super sleazy, I know, but the massage parlor was actually legit, owned by music lovers who were willing to open up their quaint and compact office. They had just released Wooden Heart, their most redolent, evocative and lyrically deft album thus far. The venue was packed with people more than willing to split with the meager ten bucks cash-only cover. The crowd huffed the same tepid breath as Listener built emotionally rich peaks of similar sentiment, an aquifer tapped in nearly every song. The audience was raptured in silence, anxious in the presence of a band that somehow managed to craft such a stylistically singular sound, a syncretism of such wide ranging influence which not only coalesced, but became fluid.There was something so raw and provoking in their authentic, frank and informal performance.  Listener had created an unmirrored world within the album built on words and sound poetics and campish delivery. 

It was this experience which lead me to see them play at Summit Music Hall last Saturday. There was a crowd of dedicated, long time listeners decorating the stage edge who orated in time with Smith, still captivated by their set despite the technical set backs. 

It seems that the band may merely be due for another bout of recording in an effort to produce a new album. Their unabridged sound and unique charisma created somewhat of a cult following, yet their output has been stagnated due to their penchant for touring. Another album seems to be soon due, and it wouldn’t hurt to up the mic levels just a bit, either. 


For more info about upcoming shows, visit