Finally, the 25th anniversary of Merge Records is upon us, and the music festival that goes with it. I'd been looking forward to this for months.
I managed to hear about two minutes of William Tyler before entering Baldwin Auditorium...going to shows solo in fancy seated venues mean you can find a spot up front even if you arrive late, because there are always a few single empty seats here and there. All of the bands were set up at the same time on the giant stage, so switching from one act to the next took no time at all - I think it might have been five minutes between the end of Tyler and the start of Mount Moriah, which is unheard of at a rock show.
I've seen Mount Moriah numerous times in multiple rock clubs across the Triangle, and it was a little weird seeing them on this giant auditorium stage in front of an extremely quiet crowd. The band almost seemed unnerved by how quiet it was, as they should have been - it was downright eerie, way too many well-behaved adults in one room. The great thing about these types of rooms are they sound great, and Baldwin Auditorium was no exception. Yeah, I might have turned the bass up a little bit in the mix, but Heather's vocals were fantastic and Jenks' guitar work as good as I've ever seen it. There were only a few older songs in the set, "Miracle Temple" and an epic, amazing version of "Plane" being the standouts, and the rest were new songs for an album on which they are working. If this was the preview for that new record, count me excited to hear the final results once Merge releases it.
Lambchop. To paraphrase what I said elsewhere, to say Lambchop were awesome would be redundant because there is never a time when Lambchop aren't awesome; therefore, a better description is to say Lambchop were Lambchop. This evening they were doing a rare performance of their classic 2000 album "Nixon" from start to finish, which Merge recently issued on vinyl for the first time in the US as part of their 25th anniversary reissue series. If there is ever a perfect location to hear Lambchop, it's in a deathly silent auditorium where you can hear every faint guitar pluck and muted horn and piano tinkle...audio-wise I'm hard pressed to think of ever attending a better sounding show in my life. "Nixon" made up the entirety of their set, with the band re-taking the stage after a brief standing ovation to play a one song encore of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love," a glorious end to a musically gorgeous evening.