Retribution Gospel Choir Came to Rock

February 2nd, 2010

Retribution Gospel Choir – Mercury Lounge – February 1, 2010

(Photo: Jared Levy)

(Photo: Jared Levy)

Less than a week after the release of their sophomore LP, 2, Retribution Gospel Choir played a knock-the-taste-out-of-your-mouth show at Mercury Lounge last night. The band consists of frontman Alan Sparhawk, the singer-songwriter-guitarist from Low, with fellow Low member and bassist Steve Garrington and drummer Eric Pollard. Contrary to Low, Retribution Gospel Choir explores a drastically different sonic region. With quick, grungy and, above all, loud rock songs, Sparhawk displayed a side of himself seldom heard in his other band’s slowcore sound.

Opener Arms and Legs showed charisma and promise during their set. Scott Daly, the sole songwriter and consistent member of the group, presented himself with magnetic intensity and focus. A set spanning originals from their EP Nothing Ever Was and an endearing Daniel Johnston cover kept the lively crowd engaged. Datus, an emerging Brooklyn-based band, followed with a rhythmically intense performance that pushed the show toward its headliner. Ezre Longinus, formerly of Apse, has vicious drumming with fills that literally deconstructed his cymbal and shattered his drum sticks. Though Datus’ set lacked cohesion, songs like “Roof Walker” proved their original material to be engaging and inventive.

Retribution Gospel Choir took to the stage dressed in business attire: button-down shirts, ties and jackets. However, even before the first note, the layers started to come off. And Sparhawk shredded his Gibson electric guitar with an intensity usually reserved for the weekends. He trashed it, pounded it and even played it with his mouth, à la Jimi Hendrix. The group is clearly classic-rock influenced, and on tracks like “Electric Guitar,” the adoration is made apparent. Highlights included the riff-heavy “Poor Man’s Daughter” and the band’s new single, “Hide It Away,” which showcased drummer Pollard’s impressive skills. By their last song, the guys in Retribution Gospel Choir were drenched in sweat and noticeably exhausted. And isn’t that how a rock show should be? —Jared Levy