Fort Lean/TV Baby – Mercury Lounge – November 5, 2012
If you go to as many live shows as I do, sometimes you’ll often catch a pairing of two bands that don’t seem to make any sense together. Which is what happened at the late show last night at Mercury Lounge. However, it was the rare circumstance where the wildly different bands expertly complemented each other. Fort Lean began the night. And lead singer Keenan Mitchell eased his way into the set, at first crooning into his microphone nonchalantly. As the night progressed, Mitchell became more animated, wildly shaking his impressive mop of bleached-blond hair and stretching toward the ceiling on his tippy toes during the highest points of the show. Yet it’s Fort Lean’s unsung rhythm section that powered the band. Drummer Sam Ubi and bassist Jake Aron locked into each other hard, and for most of the night stood as close to each other as possible, as if their rhythmic power emanated from their proximity. The band treated us to a preview of songs from their forthcoming EP, Change Your Name, out next Tuesday. Rabid fans in the packed room yipped and shouted their approval at the quintet, and eventually one particularly enthused audience member was swept up by the election spirit and attempted to start a chant of “Four more years!” He wasn’t a partisan supporter clamoring for the reelection of President Obama—he just didn’t want Fort Lean to leave the stage.
But at some point, they had to give way to TV Baby, the new outfit from two-thirds of electro-noise band A.R.E. Weapons. Singer-saxophonist Matthew McAuley and guitarist Brain (not a typo) McPeck posed a stark contrast to the impeccably dressed, youthfully energetic up-and-comers who populate Fort Lean. McAuley sported New Balance sneakers and a zippered V-neck sweatshirt tucked into his dark pleated khakis, while McPeck rocked a penlight in the pocket of his spread-collar Oxford shirt—they looked like their board meeting ran late and had only a few minutes to prepare before the show. But looks can be deceiving. The duo clearly took a page from the punk-rock playbook and dementedly bounced around the stage to the driving electronic backing beats of new their self-titled concept album. During the climax of the most intense songs, McAuley looked as if he were convulsing. At one point, he threw his microphone stand to the ground with such a huge force that it broke. “I’m a numbnuts,” was the apology he gave before transitioning into a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline,” a fittingly bizarre ending to an enjoyably bizarre evening. —Alex Kapelman