Assistant music editor Lauren Beck checked out a four-band show at the Mercury Lounge last night: The War on Drugs, Abe Vigoda, Ponytail and Titus Andronicus. Who was America’s last night’s best top band at the Mercury Lounge, Lauren?
• The War on Drugs: On a bill stacked with bands that hemorrhage high energy, openers The War on Drugs were the black sheep of the night. Unlike the other acts, their skewed take on Americana doesn’t rely on a live audience to be fully flushed out, making their low-key approach even more awkward in retrospect. The overwrought distortion levels didn’t help them much either. None of this would’ve really mattered, of course, if I didn’t think their new album, Wagonwheel Blues, was so good and had such high hopes of them converting everyone in the room into flannel-wearing Midwesterners. Seemingly less drunk than the last time I saw him (opening for Bishop Allen), main man Adam Granduciel still managed to sound more like Bob Dylan than anyone else I had ever seen, however—a substantial feat considering I’ve seen the actual Bob Dylan.
• Abe Vigoda: In contrast, Abe Vigoda, the latest to follow No Age, The Mae Shi and HEALTH out of L.A.’s art-punk scene, played with the kind of energy that only a Pixy Stix-fueled 8-year-old at a birthday party could match. I thought maybe they would be tired after supporting No Age at South Street Seaport on Friday and playing Todd P’s Mid-Summer Party at The Yard on Saturday, but I am an old lady who forgets that kids don’t ever have to sleep. While the bass player looked a little bored and nervously looked up at the ceiling, as though trying to remember what part of the song came next, the two singer/guitarists that flanked him went positively apeshit. They like to play loud. And while their punk’s tropical lacing and Afro-pop influences got lost amidst the noise—it’s much easier to follow and fall for on the album, Skeleton—no one seemed to mind much.
And then there was Ponytail. Before beginning their set, the sound guy
asked lead singer Molly Siegel if she does a lot of screaming. "Yeah, I
do a lot singing." She paused. "And screaming." Actually, Ponytail
doesn’t do a whole lot of either. Together with her dueling guitarists,
Siegel does a lot of yelping, a lot of cooing, and a lot of what could
be described as guttural bird chirping. It’s craaaaazy. And while the
unabashed frenzy isn’t necessarily my thing (I, um, really love
Bishop Allen), Ponytail is a band everyone should probably see at least
once. Like a cross between Arcade Fire’s Regine Chassagne and Punky
Brewster, Siegel commands the stage. She hops around like Donkey Kong,
distorts her face with every yelp, and then smiles and chitchats with
the audience in between each song. I’m going to write her a letter
asking if she will be my new best friend. And then I’m going to write
one to their drummer, letting him know that he moves his arms 25 times
faster than the average human being.
• Titus Andronicus:
Every band, with the exception of I’m From Barcelona maybe, should play
with the house lights off. Titus Andronicus did last night, and now
every show basking in the glow of light will be weak in comparison.
Manic flashing from the footlights mirrored the band’s anthemic noise
as frontman Patrick Stickles, with his Jesus-like beard and dramatic
gestures toward the sky, came across slightly off his rocker—and
thereby an ideal lead singer. But when it came time to play âNo
Future’, the evening’s clear highlight, he let himself go. Spending the
first half of the song curled up in the fetal position on the floor,
shrouded in darkness, singing about how tired he is of living—you felt
it. It’s one of those rare live moments that you go home and think
about the next day.
Pics from the show available here, on another website.