Merc’s Thursday night lineup was one of the sure shots on the night (along with the Sub Pop showcase at Bowery), made all the more special ’cause Malajube’s set was the band’s American debut (and we were not missing it). We had unreasonably high expectations for the show (you could say we’re “fans”), and still the Malajubers blew us away. The records rock, yes, but it’s a rock that bubbles underneath sly and subtle arrangements, drawing your ear ever towards the songs’ movement rather than its riffage. But when experienced live, it’s the guitars and skins that pull to the fore in their volume, precision, and performance. The vocal levels were waaay off, but we know these songs well enough to imagine those parts that were missing. An absolute highlight of the entire marathon.
When it came to Archie Bronson Outfit, however, we didn’t know the trio well, so we didn’t go in with any expectations — just a handful of recommendations and a happy Mala-buzz. But this one joins Beach House as our “most unexpectedly awesome” set of the marathon. Imagine Big Black playing the blues, and you’ll have a feel for what’s coming (at least, that’s how it sounded in Merc, with their amps turned up to 11).
ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT
This was our first time with Vice signee Benjy Ferree, who has been receiving heaps of Internet love of late. Unfortunately, we didn’t find much appeal in his bland set of alt-country blues, which felt like the same sorta-catchy tune on repeat for 45 minutes.
Seeing ¡Forward, Russia!, the showcase closer, was a reminder of how much we love this band (from the time we told you to watch for ‘em last September to the first time they destroyed Mercury Lounge months back). Tom blew out his voice recently, forcing the band to cancel their first CMJ show (at Fontana’s), and we could hear some of the strain in his pipes that night; instead of sounding precise and distraught in his caterwaulling, at times he sorta sounded like a strangled cat (an unmusically strangled cat, that is). At other times, his voice just wasn’t there, or he’d replace some of his yelps with dramatic whispers (“Give me a wall!”). But we don’t mean to overemphasize Woodhead’s difficulties; they were mostly noticeable only if you’d seen him before, and slightly affected his confidence (he was still strangling himself with his mic cord, but sometimes it’s like he wasn’t giving his asphyxiation his all). Still, we smiled and yelled along the whole time, thinking of the last Merc gig, thinking that we’d see ‘em again the next day at Fontana’s and thinking of the awesomeness that is Give Me A Wall.