Monday, January 17, 2011

Lemuria and Mikey Erg at the Barbary

The fates conspired to keep me from arriving at the Barbary Sun., Jan. 16. But since Lemuria and Mikey Erg! (of Ergs! fame) were playing, my girlfriend and I braved the freezing temperatures and used some creative driving to get around the fact that the block of Frankford Ave. the venue sits in was closed. See, indie act Lemuria just dropped a mighty fine record by the name of Pebble. It makes me feel warm inside even though a lot of the songs are bitter. And Mikey Erg is on track to be revered as one of the greatest songwriters of all time ever and forever, like the Burt Bacharach of punk.

Ah, but the fates, they are cruel. They tried to demoralize me with the opening act, Byrds of Paradise. These Byrds dealt in lo-fi punk as only a Brooklyn band can. Their sound is fuzzy, murky and occasionally cool. But their lyrics about breaking up were boring and too on-the-nose. Frontman Jared Jones kept asking the sound guy to adjust the vox. Given that Byrds’ style depends on sounding like ass on purpose, that seemed silly. Also silly: When bassist Brenden Britz’s instrument stopped working, so he settled for stumbling around the stage with a dazed look. Byrds of Paradise had an off-night, but the kids seemed content with their sloppy brand o’ punk.

After an interminable wait, Mikey Erg took to the stage with a guitar and treated the crowd to solo renditions of Ergs! tunes. He ranted about Queen for a little bit before launching into “Introducing Morrissey,” one of the group’s best tracks. While some of the songs suffered from a lack of band dynamics, like “Books About Miles Davis” and “Anthem For a New Amanda,” it was still neat hearing Ergs! tunes one more time. Considering some of the songs were release posthumously, like “Amanda” and “Encyclopedia Self-Destructica,” it was a real treat.

I noticed something about the Ergs!, though. All those super fast, catchy songs about heartbreak are straight up depressing when slowed down with the lyrics forced to the front. Still, I got to hear “Running, Jumping, Standing Still” one more time. Erg also threw in a couple of new tunes, one from a split with Lemuria’s vocalist/drummer Alex Kerns on Asian Man Records and one from an upcoming Paper + Plastick release. Both were in the traditional pop-punk vein and should rock balls upon release.

The few new tunes Mikey Erg introduced fit in with his general sound. The same can not be said for Lemuria. The group made their name with catchy, cute songs about making out. Pebble is not any of those things – it’s slower and sadder. Wisely, the band chose not to play too many new songs, and the few tracks they busted out clashed greatly with the old material. “Hours,” from their split with Kind of Like Spitting, got the biggest reaction of the night, but then new tune “Gravity” sucked the energy right out of the room, for example.

Still, the new songs sounded great live, even if they do seem to come from a different band. The tracks off of Get Better sure succeeded, with opener “Pants” going over hugely. Lemuria is in a transitional period, but there’s no denying the energy between vocalist/guitarist Sheena Ozzella and Kerns. The duo, aided by a touring bassist, drew from the crowd and dished out amped up, poppy indie rock over and over for about a half-hour, with Ozzella headbanging quite aggressively. The audience in turn thanked them by dancing and, on one occasion, diving off of the Barbary’s tiny stage. Ozzella and Kerns were humble and funny the whole time; ask them about their “comfy punx” group sometime.

After a solid set, Lemuria bowed out to applause. I visited the merch table and then hit the cold head on.

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