“We’re never going to be a wedding band.” Charlotte Kemp Muhl was joking, of course, as she and the rest of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger spent a fleeting moment of amateur trying to figure out which key to use to sing happy birthday to a friend somewhere in the arm-to-arm crowd at Lincoln Hall. Yet, even so, marriage was on the brain at this intimate gig, and not for the obvious relationship between the singer/bassist and her long-time boyfriend and bandmate Sean Lennon, but rather for the unfaltering union of the couple’s heavy harmonies that—at least musically—makes you hope they stay together forever.
It’s a strange if not beautiful thing listening to the two sing, Lennon quite often invoking the ghost of his famous father while Kemp Muhl’s tenderized and well-matched contributions made you wonder what it would have been like had The Beatles ever featured a strong female \vocal on their likeminded progressive albums—other than the one time Sean’s mother Yoko Ono contributed to “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” It would be easy to get carried away with this type of familial extrapolation, and Lennon surely doesn’t shirk from the reference point, but Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger proved it is so much more than a birth right, especially as the band continues to magnify and grow.
Initially born out of a way for the two to “spend more time together” after meeting at Coachella some years ago, GOASTT is one of the more serious musical projects for Lennon after spending years of tinkering with a solo album and working behind the scenes with this mother and other girlfriends like Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda. Yet since he and Kemp Muhl decided to romance the idea of bringing four other musicians into the fold on the band’s second album, April’s Midnight Sun, the caliber of work has only increased making them one of the more interesting contenders in this generation’s collective reinterest in psychedelic music.
Songs like “Animal” and “Poor Paul Getty” (two of their finest) seemed to succintly fit into the echelon of work produced by bands like The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala, both of whom they have toured with in recent years while billowing performances of “Devil You Know” and “Xanadu” show why this band has become friendly within the festival circuit. The set also included a number of covers like Gandalf’s “Golden Earring,” which Kemp Muhl credited to being one of her favorite gypsy songs. Although she wasn’t always expressive, she wasn’t guarded either, cracking jokes or telling stories in between songs, like how the band was named for an existential play she wrote as a child or how she kicked the famous dancing ear (as seen on the band’s performance on “Conan”) out of the band.
During the encore, Lennon chimed in with a story of his own, about how he played ice hockey when he was a kid, seemingly to cheer up the crowd whose phones were buzzing with breaking news of the Chicago Blackhaws’ playoff loss that same night. “No wonder I feel all shitty and depressed,” he joked, pantomiming the various sad faces he saw scanning the room—yet one couldn’t be sure which of the night’s endings was the culprit.
Catch Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger on tour with Beck:
6/19/14 Cleveland, OH @ State Theatre
6/20/14 Columbus, OH @ LC Pavilion
6/21/14 Louisville, KY @ Zanzibar
6/22/14 Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
6/24/14 North Adams, MA @ MASS MoCA: Joe’s Field
6/25/14 Montreal, Canada @ Place des Arts
6/27/14 Toronto, Canada @ Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
6/28/14 Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre
6/30/14 New York, NY @ Hammerstein Ballroom