A Band Taking It All in Stride

August 11th, 2009

Hockey – Mercury Lounge – August 10, 2009

Deer Tick

Let’s be honest with ourselves as much as we’re able: Postmodernism was suited to declare revolution—if not outright war—on the capitalist Kulturkampf of the emerging American middle class. But art divorced from meaning evolved into its own marketplace and posed new questions. How do you sell something that is against being sold? What happens when someone embraces the same tools built only to deconstruct? Not ironically, Hockey.

Spun out of Portland, Ore., Hockey took the stage just before 11 p.m. They’d sound-checked and sound-checked again and finally took the stage with the gravitas indicating that yes, we are signed to a major label. Leading off with “Work, Work, Work,” Ben Grubin thrashed around like an attention-deficit art student. His affect was charming, if not as propulsive as the rumored magnetism he’s rightfully earned. Grubin wore a T-Rex T-shirt, ripped almost beyond recognition. You would think, if not for his in-ear monitors, that this wasn’t all carefully put together.

But Hockey’s last few songs revealed something greater, something more fruitful. In the midst of the disco-rocked “Too Fake,” Grubin admited, perhaps obviously, “I’m just too fake for the world.” And in the updated Tom Petty sing-along, “Song Away,” Grubin confided, “I stole my personality from an anonymous source.” His hat tipped over his eyes and he sang, “And I’m getting paid for it too. I don’t feel bad about that.” Can you sell what isn’t supposed to be sold? Absolutely and, yes, look out. —Geoff Nelson