Monday, July 28, 2014

Merge 25 - Night Two at the Cat's Cradle - 7/24/2014

Merge 25
Superchunk, Reigning Sound, The Rock*A*Teens, and The Clientele
Cat's Cradle

Night two of Merge 25 was upon us, and after last night's cushy seated gig it was time for a long evening of standing on the cement Cat's Cradle floors.  Let's do this. 

I got in the club just before the Clientele got started, and in my usual way wormed my way near the front amid a sea of photographers and three videographers with serious professional rigs.  Why all three of them were basically filming from the same angle is beyond me, but they're the pros and I'm sure they know what they're doing.  I wouldn't call myself a superfan, but this was one of the bands I was most excited about.  Why?  I couldn't say exactly, but probably some combination of their somber jazz pop sounding really good to my ears these days, combined with the fact that I've only seen the band a couple of times so there was a certain novelty to their performance as opposed to someone like Superchunk who I've seen tons.  Is it weird that I think of them as a British Sea & Cake?  It's not an exact match, but they're mining the same vein.  The band is both fantastically smooth and smoothly fantastic, and the only thing that would have made it better is if they had played "Rain."  I picked up the recent reissue of their classic "Suburban Light" when I left the club later that night. 

Next up was the Rock*A*Teens.  I'm 98% certain I saw these cats a few times back in the late nineties, be it opening for someone like Superchunk or at the old Kings or something along those lines.  They never really moved the needle for me back then, and I was interested to see how I would react to them this go around.  The verdict: while still not my favorite band in the world, I was definitely feeling it more than in the past.  They have a ramshackle, jangly garage pop vibe to them, a little sloppy but I'm not sure that is particularly important to a band like this.  There were a number of sound issues, most seemingly from the house and not the band, but the Rock*A*Teens plowed through without a care in the world.  I might need to go back and revisit their old records now. 

Speaking of sound problems, Reigning Sound also seemed to have no shortage of them.  Greg broke a guitar string early in the set and after changing it he just never seemed to get the guitar tuned back to his liking.  My musically stupid ears couldn't hear anything wrong, but then again I thought the music sounded fine when he was just playing five strings before he changed the broken one.  The band just released a new record called "Shattered" and played a number of tracks off of it, as well as some classics like "Stop and Think It Over," "Debris," "I'll Cry," and probably the best song they've ever written "Drowning."  Despite the difficulties I very much enjoyed the show, as I do with any Reigning Sound show.  So stoked they're on Merge now.  

Superchunk closed out the night.  I had sorta hoped and/or expected them to play a "special" set in honor of the anniversary - a complete classic album or all requests or obscure b-sides or something unusual, but it was just a regular Chunk show.  It might sound like I was disappointed, and maybe I was a tad, but you can't be that bummed out when one of your all-time favorite bands is banging out classics like "Skip Steps 1 & 3" and "What Do I" and "Brand New Love" and "Hyper Enough," paired with great new jams such as "Low F" and "Digging for Something" and "FOH." At one point new bassist Jason Narducy got so spazzy he fell backwards into the drum kit and ended up with a trickle of blood running from his head down his face and it wasn't until a couple of songs later when Jon Wurster told him that he had any idea.  That's rock and/or roll right there!  So it was a fun show, regardless of "specialness," and a nice cap on the second night.

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