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Best of Olympia 2018: Smoocho Gusto

Readers' pick: Best band name

Smoocho Gusto are more than just a name, with warm, relaxed jazz for any occasion. Photo credit: Facebook

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I've made no secret of the fact that, when looking for a band to write about, I frequently am attracted to the band with the most interesting name. This is the reason why Gene Simmons was idly doodling "KISS" in his high school notebook, testing out fonts, and daydreaming about how badass his future band would be. This is also the reason why, after anyone strings together a three-word phrase like "Pickle Sunset Conundrum," someone will invariably joke that that would make a great band name. Now, keep in mind that this rule is both a gift and a curse: interesting band names can also be indicative of bad bands. Most of the time, I will be able to tell if your music is not for me, just by reading your band name. I have just now decided to dub this Screamo's Law.

Olympia has no shortage of bands with evocative, funny, or outright bizarre names. I'm thinking of groups like Squill, Cyberplasm, the Washboard Abs, Deja Blue, Mommy and the Commies, Dyke Drama, Wauby, and Meowtain -- and that's just scratching the surface (Meowtain cat pun confirmed). To put an even finer point on it, all of those bands are actually good; the pile of bad bands with creative names is as monumental as it is fascinating in its wrongheadedness. I, a person who can barely play the ukulele -- an instrument learned by children, with their tiny hands -- have offhandedly come up with a ton of great band names, over the years, but that doesn't mean I need to be heard by anybody.

So, what is it that leads Olympia music fans to vote on the best band name in the city? One: it's a play on words, which everyone pretends to dislike, but which everyone secretly loves. Two: they're a legitimately fun band that has been going strong for quite some time. And three: the name evokes an inarguably soft, fuzzy feeling in everyone that reads it. Yes, it's fun to be edgy and aloof when naming your band, but just stop and consider if that name will inspire anything close to the good vibes of Smoocho Gusto.

Performing every Wednesday at Cascadia Grill, Smoocho Gusto is a jazzy two-piece featuring Loree Gardner on upright bass and Steve Leceno on guitar. Between the two of them, they have a very relaxed sound that comes from years of playing together. This is music that's ideally suited for coffee shops or tipsy evenings, providing a soundtrack for an easygoing night out on the town. Like their name suggests, they are also perfect accompaniment for a romantic dinner with a new certain someone. Unlike other bands that might fit this description, though, Smoocho Gusto is a band that can be appropriated for their accomplished musicianship. Their laid back energy hides none of their musical pedigree.

The moral of the story? Fun names are great, but make sure that you have the talent to cash the check your band name writes.

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