Five Years Later and Just as Good

July 13th, 2009

Robbers on High Street – Mercury Lounge – July 10, 2009

Robbers on High Street - Mercury Lounge - July 10, 2009
In a band’s timetable, five years is a lifetime. Most groups have enough trouble making it past the first daunting tour or a series of EPs before they hit a roadblock. A half decade ago I saw Robbers on High Street open a CMJ show headlined by Jimmy Eat World, and their performance was great enough to remain memorable to this day. The five-piece outfit sported a vintage rock sound before it was the cool thing to do, covering Tom Petty songs and wowing a small, young crowd of emo-rock fans.

Fast forward through obligatory lineup changes and years spent playing shows anywhere and everywhere in New York City (which I somehow consistently missed, all the while thinking their time would run out). But, finally, here they were in front of me again. This time the vintage sound was much more refined, filled with acoustic guitar and four-part vocal harmonies and even a few horn parts to boot. Lead singer Ben Trokan’s slight rasp is a perfect fit for the songs they write, brimming with that classic-rock sensibility prevalent in bands like Cold War Kids and Spoon. Robbers on High Street is one of the best examples of why a simple-rock sound translates so well to live shows, especially in the intimate New York City settings like Mercury Lounge.

They sped through a set featuring much of their last EP, Grand Animals, including the popular “The Fatalist,” and also worked in some newer material. Their work paid off. They had a sold-out crowd yelling for an encore, not believing Trokan when he said, “That was it. We’re done now,” as the band wrapped up a show as good as the one I witnessed five years ago. Hopefully, in another five they can do the same. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane |