I arrived in time to have a ridiculously expensive Toasted Ale ($7? Seriously?) and see local-ish act Family Lumber play a 45-minute set. When they started, their vocalist/guitarist strummed an acoustic and had quaint folk backings, and it consequently reminded me of something between the Mountain Goats and the Decemberists. But those vague similarities quickly dissipated, as the music gave way to fairly straightforward indie rock for the remainder of the set. They usually utilized three guitarists, which gave them a warm and layered sound, even if it wasn't always terribly interesting. However, some of those guitarists would occasionally forgo their main instrument for some auxiliary percussion -- maybe some tambourine. I remember the singer sounding oddly like Andy Hull in a few songs, and giving some shout-outs to "Cool Runnings" at other times. I left a single song early to get a taco and ended up going for a pretty delicious falafel instead, just a block away from Mercury Lounge.
Having my appetite whet perfectly, Drew Danburry was just about set up and ready to go with his two bandmates when I came back. The only knowledge I have of this man is from some reviews, both of which give the singer/songwriter some mild praise. Either way, I wasn't really sure what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised by a humble but inviting man who was fully bearded, dressed in a periwinkle jumpsuit and probably infatuated with Neil Young. He played semi-folky romps with Petty-esque harmonica blowing, like a more dynamic version of some of the songs on Attack in Black's recent album/transformation. Danburry was all about crowd participation for his entire set and the audience was incredibly responsive to his sincere requests. He encouraged a sing-along for the second song, and you could hear just about everyone in the room consequently humming along. He asked for a Pee-wee's Playhouse "secret word of the day"-type reaction to a harmonica bridge for another jam, and indeed, some humored Danburry with wigged-out screaming. We also supplied ghost noises for another song. I wasn't running to Danburry's merch table to buy his album once the set ended with an incredibly quaint ukulele composition, but it was definitely an entertaining 45-50 minutes and I didn't have to stand around buzzed and a little overanxious for the headlining act for close to an hour like I tend to do at more "indie"-type shows.
Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin quickly got on stage and got their shit together impressively quick. The time between sets couldn't have been any more than 10 minutes; I wish more shows were this prompt. Granted, it was nearing 11 by this point, but still -- I was glad to see they weren't taking their time.
The band opened both modestly and shockingly with the first track off their debut, Broom, with the excellent "Pangea," and even followed it right up with that album's closer. Though the early material definitely lacked the pleasingly stuffy intimacy, the band did a fine job translating it live. "House Fire" was probably the biggest challenge to bring to the stage, especially as the band didn't have any acoustic guitars to try and match the studio version. No matter, as they added little alternate chords and riffs to spice it up and give it a flavor that was totally unique from the original. Acting as the '2' of the 1-2 bang that was "Think I Wanna Die" and "House Fire," it was definitely a mid-set highlight, as was the surprising scrappiness of "Oregon Girl."
Speaking of mid-set, it was around this time that three of the band's four members rotated instruments -- I think it was after "House Fire" that drummer/vocalist Philip Dickey took the frontman position and picked up the guitar, bassist Jonathan James moved to the kit and vocalist/guitarist John Cardwell moved over to bass and what seemed like just backing vocals. It was definitely an unexpected move, having never seen the band live before, but the set continued to flow without perfunctory measures. In fact, the enthusiasm only picked up, as Dickey was a little more lively than Cardwell, occasionally jumping around towards songs' end. He added insane cowbell parts to "Oceanographer," too, though ceded focus to lead guitarist Will Knauer on "Modern Mystery," when the flange-ish effect Knauer was using gave the song a bizarrely Cure-ish vibe.
The "encore" transition was amusing, since there's really nowhere to go inside the Mercury Theater performance room. The four simply walked to stage left and crowded by the wall, where they couldn't really hide from the crowd. They chatted for a bit about what to do next, then walked right back over and picked things back up again, getting in "I Am Warm & Powerful" and the only song of the set -- the closer -- I didn't quite recognize. Maybe a super old jam? Who knows. Probably another reviewer. When the unknown jam ended, the band promptly trashed their instruments a bit, throwing their guitars into the drumkit and Cardwell literally jumping into the mess like it was a freshly raked pile of leaves. And after a solid hour, it was all over.
Overall, the band played impressively tight and just about every song I wanted to hear (well, except maybe "Boring Fountain," "Dead Right" and "You Could Write a Book"), including the two cuts on their most recent release, a split 7" with jangly English math-pop unit, Puzzle. Definitely a band rec'd to see live if you enjoy Broom and Pershing enough.
Set list (10:55-11:48/11:57):
- The Beach Song
- Glue Girls
- Oregon Girl
- Anna Lee
- Think I Wanna Die
- House Fire
- Some Constellation
- We Can Win Missouri
- All Hail Dracula [new song]
- Same Speed
- Modern Mystery
- I Am Warm & Powerful