American Royalty/Vensaire – Mercury Lounge – February 7, 2013
As the Northeast awaited another impending storm, the theme of the fantastic late double bill at Mercury Lounge last night was “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” as both bands hit a dizzying array of sounds, themes and influences, filling every minute with crowd-pleasing music.
First up, Vensaire took the stage while green laser spots floated around the entire room like CGI fairies bringing a little magic to the Lower East Side. To understand Vensaire, all you need to know is they’re the kind of band that that is very easy to dance to and also the kind of band that has a violin player. Their opening song was nine minutes long and stretched through multiple sections, somewhat freaky-folk Grizzly Bear-ish, before an extended, pounding, triumphant ooh-la-la coda that could have been its own song. From there, the band pulled in some Japanese influences, the violin sounding downright eerie. Throughout the set four different musicians took lead vocals and everyone put their own punctuation on the sound—art-rock vocals, groovy bass and keys, and a prog-y lead guitar, covering a lot of territory, all very smart, all very open and loose, and all very danceable.
Picking up where Vensaire left off, American Royalty began in a now nearly packed room with an ambitious string of songs that featured multiple overlapping sections. And each seemed to bounce among styles: It almost felt like an expert DJ working the turntables, mixing and layering sounds to create a new music. Except these guys were doing it live, and every transition was perfect, the trio hitting three main styles: Zeppelin-esque rock and roll, soul and dance club in some combination in their set. About midway through, American Royalty covered Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman,” which was perfectly nearly unrecognizable, a real-time remix that captured the essence of the original but re-envisioned it as an American Royalty classic. From there the set was one workout to the next—including the standout material from their released-this-week Prismatic EP—fist-pumping sections comingling with hip twisters, each song building a narrative and usually ending in a high-energy climax. So, yeah, if you didn’t like the “conditions” in the room last night, they’d change soon enough, except it was more like every 30 seconds and, as it turned out, everyone seemed to love it all. —A. Stein