Smallpools pump out party music like a well-oiled machine. Their high-energy alt-pop efficiently gets crowds loose and moving through bullish percussion, lively synths, and the agreeable promotion of togetherness and connectivity. Simply put, the congeniality that fills the room when Smallpools performs makes it relatively impossible to have a bad time. Stick that upbeat alt-pop in a small venue like Boston’s Brighton Music Hall, and fun becomes virtually inevitable.
As is typical with most concerts, Smallpools started and ended with their major hits like “Stumblin’ Home“, “Passenger Side“, “Million Bucks“, and “Dreaming“. These hits were enthralling, taking the entire 500-person venue and turning it into one big, boundless dance floor. Surprisingly, that dancing reached its peak when Smallpools performed a B-side off their 2015 album LOVETAP! called “Killer Whales“. Before the song started, lead singer Sean Scanlon discussed how searching Smallpools unique name during the band’s early days produced interesting results about the atrocities facing killer whales who were held captive in small pools. At the conclusion of his aside, a stagehand released a giant inflatable whale that, tacky as it may be, sent the crowd into a frenzy. The whale swam around the active crowd who found the obscure topic to be an oddly perfect millennial platform for combining the mindfulness of environmentalism with the mindlessness of modern club culture.
Although Smallpools’ set was undeniably entertaining, it was ultimately defined by its bookends. As they tailed away from the songs that helped build the temple of their alt-pop success, their cornerstones began to seem more like crutches. The band’s mid-set songs were still high-energy, but they lacked any distinct flavor that would make them memorable. When interest slowly began to fade, Smallpools tried to spice up their content with some well-known covers. This common tactic quickly backfired as their puzzling and crude insertion of verses from hits like Radiohead’s “Creep” and Calvin Harris’s “Slide” were distasteful and fairly unwelcome. Confetti swayed around the room as a promising sign that a machine was loaded and waiting for a climactic crescendo, but the lasting spin of overhead ceiling fans revealed that the confetti was nothing more than leftover scraps from a previous show.
As the rogue pieces of confetti continued to wisp above a few audience members heads, one couldn’t help but connect those little flakes of paper to Smallpools at this stage in their career. 4 years after Smallpools thrilling debut, it feels like their proverbial confetti cannon hasn’t been shot since LOVETAP!. The band is still entertaining, but most of the songs released since their inception seem like residue from their former creative inspiration. They’re too fun to completely spin out into irrelevancy, but the only way they will regain their former success is through change, and fundamental change at that.
Below is a playlist featuring songs performed by Smallpools during their 2019 trip to Boston’s Brighton Music Hall.
Favorite Live Tracks: Dreaming, Killer Whales, Million Bucks, Passenger Side, Social