Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bright Light Social Hour

May 27th, 2011

The Bright Light Social Hour – Mercury Lounge – May 25, 2011

(Photo: Randy Cremean)

(Photo: Randy Cremean)

You know what they say about first impressions. The Bright Light Social Hour, out of Austin, Texas, made the most of theirs in their New York City debut at Mercury Lounge on Wednesday night, bursting into their first number with a manic energy and an opening lyric of something like “Gotta keep grooving, burning and moving.” With a wailing slide guitar from Curtis Roush and a funked-up clavinet-inspired keyboard riff from A.J. Vincent meeting like a Romeo and Juliet midnight tryst, the band primed the crowd for what was to come. By the second tune, when the keyboard player switched to keytar, laying into some thick electronic grooves, the Bright Light Social Hour was well on its way to make a roomful of new fans.

The quartet illustrated plenty of ways for a rock star to wear shoulder-length hair: from the “mysterious cover your face” look to the “thrash your hair around while you rock out uncontrollably” modus operandi and everything in between, including because “that’s what goes with my porn ’stache and cut-off jorts while I bounce around the stage,” courtesy of Jack O’Brien. All four members of the band had one look or another, but they each had the musical chops to back up the flair, combining to create an exciting next-generation jam band complete with indulgent (but not over-indulgent) stretches of instrumental wizardry, genre-splicing songwriting and a lovably goofy stage presence that had the audience clamoring for more.

Techno grooves, prog jams and Southern rock were mixed together with ease as songs stretched five, eight and 10 minutes long without growing stale. Tying it together was a raunchy crassness that would have made Frank Zappa proud—at least two-thirds of the songs played were announced to be about fucking and probably were for that matter. As the newfound fanbase boogied across the Merc floor, the set wound down to a close with a vicious one-two punch of blues jams: an over-the-top take on Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and a Live-at-Leeds-esque “Young Man Blues.” With an impossibly explosive Joseph Mirasole leading the way on drums, the band was at their free-form best. The too-short show had come to an end, but really, it was just the beginning. —A. Stein