You know you've made it when you have a tour bus. As I arrived to the Rave bar in Milwaukee, WI, the Hey Mercedes tour bus stuck out like a sore thumb, being surrounded by the other bands' worn-down Ford Econolines. But hey, they've earned it, and they proved why as soon as they got on stage.
First up on the bill, however, was Blue Sky Major. I know absolutely nothing about their history, but I can tell you that their music was very generic-sounding. They seemed to be yearning for a Vagrant Records contract, as their sound was basically an amalgamation of Hey Mercedes and Saves The Day - nothing too special at all [although, from a technical standpoint, their drummer is really, really good].
It was at this point that I bumped into two new friends, Katie and Megan, who I had previously met at the Jimmy Eat World concert in Chicago a few weeks ago. They looked great and were ready to rock [except Megan - she was ready to propose to Bob Nanna, Hey Mercedes' singer - but that's another story]. So as introductions were shared, Koufax took the stage.
I severely dislike Koufax. You can read more about this in my review of the Reggie and the Full Effect show I caught last year. They were just as bad as I remembered, playing seemingly the same songs as they did a year prior. They did play some tracks off their forthcoming Vagrant release "The Social Life," such as the title track as well as "Younger Body." Overall, they were as bland and tepid as the glass of water I had this morning. The only exciting thing to happen all set was during their last song when some "masked men" [Hey Mercedes] took the stage and assaulted the band with silly string in a "last show of tour" attack. The sheer comedic value of the incident completely overshadowed the band's whole set.
Kicking things up a notch was transplanted Chicagoans the Ghost. This was my fourth time in less than a year seeing this band [and I'm hopefully seeing them again in September to make it 5], and they get better and better with each show. Their set consisted of some of gems off their "This Is A Hospital" disc, like "Death By The Bay," "Red Slippers Red Wheels," and "Diffuser." They also played a few new songs which sound killer, as well as the live favorite "A Letter From God" [now available for download on their website]. To top their set off, they played "By The Books" and I went absolutely nuts. This is my favorite song by them and it was the first time I had seen them play it live - it smoked moreso than I would've thought. The band's new guitarist Paul did an admirable job on the old songs, and didn't make any discernable mistakes [whatup, T-Top!]. *Go see this band.* You will come away a better person for it. But now, on to the final act.
As the lights darkened, Hey Mercedes took the stage and jumped into album opener "Frowning Of A Lifetime." Wasting no time, "11 To Your 7" was next, followed by a string of "Everynight Fire Works" tracks. Some of the songs seemed to be a little under-tempo, but they have been on the road for six weeks straight, so I expected them to be a little winded. My only real complaint was that they were touring in support of their new EP ["The Weekend"], but didn't play a single song off it [except for album track "Our Weekend Starts On Wednesday"]. What gives? It's your first new released material in 9 months and you just ignore it? That kinda bummed me out, but I soon recovered as the band played "Que Shiraz" - this song is the spicy jam of the summer for me. It's the perfect driving song.
By the end of the night, all but 2 tracks ["The Slightest Idea" and "What You're Up Against"] had been played, as well as all four tracks off the band's debut EP. This almost didn't happen, as "Stay Six" wasn't on the setlist, but with only one song left to go [the traditional set closer "Let's Go Blue"], Bob decided that "Stay Six" should be played as well [and I thank him for it, because that song is amazing]. The audience fed off the band as much as the band fed off the audience, and they were pulling out no stops for this, the last show of their 6 week tour. As the guitar breakdown began in "Let's Go Blue," half of Koufax stormed the stage wearing nothing but thongs and Hey Mercedes girlie T's and assaulted Bob and company with birthday cake [it was the bassist of the Ghost's birthday that night]. It was side-splittingly hilarious, and I can only hope that when my pictures get developed it does the incident justice.
Hey Mercedes has definitely hit their stride - I cannot wait for them to record something new. Their new guitarist sounded great, and the vocal harmonies he added to the previously existing tracks were stellar. They earned the right to have a tour bus last Sunday night. Keep up the good work, boys.