Monday, August 2, 2010

Frog Eyes See The Middle East

Frog Eyes are one of those bands I've always wanted to see live but I never got around to it. I've praised Carey Mercer's manic delivery endlessly and their guitar tones are among the best in indie rock today. Their latest release, Paul's Tomb, shows that they are only gaining strength with age. The record spins with a consistent intensity that begins with a 9-minute sonic wave of guitars and refreshingly dynamic songwriting. On June 18, 2010, I took my chance to see if this translated to the stage when I caught them with up-and-comers Beach Fossils at the Middle East.

Friday shows are hard; after working all day I usually grab a drink and play some pool with a couple of friends. By the time showtime arrives, I am exhausted. Couple this with the fact that I walked several miles to get to the venue, I was obviously worn out by the time Beach Fossils started their set. The reason i am telling you this is that I was unimpressed with Beach Fossils but my state at the time played a huge factor.

I have actually been spinning their self-titled debut quite a bit lately. The dreamy surf-pop is perfect for summer days sipping mojitos on the porch. Their live show fit this description in that it oozed relaxation; so much so that I actually began to doze off. Their guitars sounded excellent and retained the same warm tones from the record but Dustin Payseur's vocals were missing some of the sun-drenched reverb that sucked you into their recordings. The drummer kept things at a steady pace the whole time, playing simple beats while standing. The band seemed to gain momentum on their punchier tracks - which happen to be my favorite - such as "Sometimes". In all, you have to know what you are getting into in order to really enjoy such a laid-back band. You can check out a special set by the band from Pitchfork below.

Frog Eyes were my wake-up call. As expected, they came out guns blazing with their distinctive sound. Carey Mercer is quite the comedian in real life. I was not expecting as much interesting banter as he provided in between songs. He enlightened us that "this is their punk song" before tearing into Paul's Tomb standout "Lear in Love". Watching him add what seemed like a thousand syllables to the phrase "I kissed a girl" was memorizing to witness live. I would like to see Katy Perry try and sing it that way!

I'm still in awe at how Mercer could both shred guitar and sing such melismatic phrases at the same time. My favorite part of the night was when they played "Styled by Dr. Roberts" and I got to hear him bellow out advice like "You want to hit him in the fucking knees!" with the rest of band establishing a powerful dissonant backdrop. The audience also got to hear a much improved take on Mercer's Blackout Beach tune "Biloxi, In A Grove, Cleans Out His Eyes". Below, I am embedding a cool video I found on YouTube of the band performing the song earlier in the year at a different tour date in which you also get a glimpse of Mercer's eccentric on stage behavior. They ironically closed with the epic Paul's Tomb opener "A Flower in a Glove" which was an absolute treat. After such an intense performance, there is no way I will miss them next time they make a stop in town.

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