By Troy Aldrich
Caroline Smith and Elizabeth Moen headed to Big Grove for an intimate show on Feb. 15, and that’s just what they delivered to the audience.
The show, headlined by Smith, was the first ticketed show at the brewery’s Iowa City location.
“We’re putting a lot of work into making Big Grove a music venue,” said Brian Johansen, Big Grove’s talent buyer and music coordinator.
Performers at Big Grove in the past have had to battle loud crowds, sporting events on the big screen, and large patio noise.
Instead, the audience heard better acoustics and became more attentive. This was essential, because the two women performed solo. Both demonstrated great vocal talent and equally great songwriting. Big Grove’s improvements to the acoustics and aesthetics allowed listeners to hear the emotion behind the music.
Iowa City has shown nothing but love for Smith; she has played nearly every venue in town with her band, Caroline Smith and Goodnight Sleeps.
“You welcomed us dirty 21-year-old kids,” Smith said on-stage.
She spoke about this, following one of her original bands’ most popular tracks, “Strong Shoulders.”
Smith will release an album in the coming months, which she partially recorded during a trip to Nicaragua.
“I begin writing every song acoustically, either on guitar or piano,” she said in a phone interview. “I write every song to be a pop song, though.”
This makes Smith’s live performances unique — she can add instrumentation and technology to put together an intriguing pop tune. She can also strip down any of her tracks and play an acoustic set, which is what she elected to do on Feb. 15.
Smith performed several of her hits from her solo LP, Half About Being a Woman.
The acoustic versions of popular tracks such as “Bloodstyle,” “Buy Me Something,” and “Kind of Man” went over extremely well with Smith’s most loyal fans who shouted lyrics along with her.
Smith reciprocated the energy and sang a song from her live recordings with Goodnight Sleeps, “Gracie.” It’s a song about Smith’s dog, which is featured in a few of Goodnight Sleeps’ lyrics.
“I’m going to try not to cry. I feel like if I tell you I might, I won’t let myself do it,” Smith said before the song.
That didn’t stop Smith from choking up at the end of the first chorus and resulted in eyes locked on her from all over the taproom.
Smith’s fans received a very emotional, and intimate performance, just as advertised.
“If you have fans, you need to let them hear you,” said Moen, Smith’s opening act. Her set featured a lot of new music, which she has slated to release this summer.
Her set felt lonely without her usual Iowa City band, but she supplemented this with some extra commentary and guitar riffs.
“I’ve been playing so many solo shows recently, I’m excited to be back and do it for Iowa City,” Moen said about her exodus from Iowa City.
This was her first show back since her appearance at Iowa City’s first Block Party last summer.