Posted by Stephen Smith on 04/12 at 12:03 PM
John Schmitt informed the audience between songs that he had quit “slaving away for the man” to pursue a career in music. After hearing his set, I’d have to say I’m glad he told his boss to shove it.
The Buffalo-native performed for the SPA’s Noontime Concert Series last Friday. He did not bring any accompaniment for this show, instead relying on his vocals and acoustic guitar to do the job. That said, he created a very full sound by himself. His guitar (a Gibson Hummingbird Pro Cutaway, I believe) had an even, beautiful sound that meshed perfectly with his voice, which was spectacular in its own right. The stripped down solo set-up created an intimate atmosphere that complimented the overcast drizzle outside the HUB.
Schmitt shifted through several genres throughout his performance and became hard to pin down to a single genre. At times, funk and soul seemed to be favored. Other times, Americana or folk seemed more appropriate. Simple and expected chord progressions led me to believe it to be folk. Then, jazz and chromatic scale exploration left me not so sure. All throughout, I noticed hints of John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and even Jason Mraz in his style and sound. This unique, chameleon approach to genre kept the set dynamic from one song to the next.
Schmitt’s setlist contained a balanced mixture of original songs and interesting covers. He started with “Two Souls Meet in the City,” which immediately showcased his strong, smooth, and soulful voice. “Going Back” displayed his emotive lyrical style, describing divorce in a beautiful, yet painfully real way. He also made references in his lyrics to literature and history, including the character of “Ophelia” from Hamlet and a song titled “Song of Myself” after Walt Whitman’s famous poem.
The choice of cover songs was unique, too, which included David Gray’s “Babylon” (a personal favorite), Van Morrison’s “Domino,” and John Mayer’s “Sucker.” However, the best cover and highlight of the show was when he quietly began to sing, “7 a.m., waking up in the morning. Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs…” I joined the audience in laughing hysterically. Schmitt put on a face of sarcastic emotion while playing the song, struggling not to smile for the sake of the joke. The crowd even got involved, singing along and answering the refrain of, “Partying, partying…” with “Yeahs!” and fist pumps into the air. Thankfully, after one chorus of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” he mercifully transitioned into a Motown-like original, “You Got Me Brother.” The joke was well timed and perfectly executed, showing Schmitt’s fun side and adding color to the show.
Schmitt could have ended the performance with more of a bang instead of playing his original, “Superman,” but it didn’t matter. He played passionately, and sung with soul throughout the entire set. His fingers deserve to be on a fret board in a studio—not on a keyboard in a cubicle. His sound was tight and he made the right decision by becoming a musician. Friday’s show proved that much.
While there is no concrete date set for an encore, he told the audience that he should be passing through State College in May. So if you see him playing, celebrate graduation with the highly recommendable John Schmitt.
Author: Stephen Smith
Bio: Stephen Smith is currently a senior English major at Penn State. In his free time, he enjoys playing Xbox, drumming, playing his guitar, and writing fiction. His favorite genres include alternative rock, emo, indie, metal, and most anything played acoustically. His favorite bands include Say Anything, Counting Crows, City and Colour, and Daphne Loves Derby.
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