A Showcase at the Merc

February 24th, 2012

Zeus – Mercury Lounge – February 23, 2012

Last night Mercury Lounge, along with taste-making Canadian label Arts & Crafts, hosted a good old-fashioned showcase gig. Shows like these are a dime a dozen during weeks like SXSW in Austin, Texas, or CMJ in NYC, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get turned on to some great new music in the middle of February! After a nice warm-up set of two guitars, one drummer and lots of energy from locally grown Radical Dads, the crowd was treated to a threesome of north-of-the-border pop and rock up-and-comers.

First, Gold & Youth took the ’80s synth-pop revival as a starting point, employing multiple synths, a lead singer with a voice made for the classic MTV days and a leather jacket with the sleeves pushed up to match. But the music expanded in all directions, often expertly squeezing five or six different musical ideas into a song at once. Next the bass-free trio Eight and a Half performed in a Radiohead-meets-R.E.M. style. The set, only the group’s second live show ever, began atmospheric and static. As they grew comfortable, the songs twisted, starting with former Broken Social Scene member Justin Peroff’s wonderful drumming and evolving from there. The highlight was the moody but lively “Walked into Diazapene,” with welcome bursts of guitar and a bouncing drum beat.

Headliners Zeus delivered from the get-go, taking all those everyday, lovable rock and roll tropes—dueling double guitars, share-the-microphone backing harmonies, controlled-chaos drumming and killer facial hair—and brewing up their own bet-you-can’t-stand-still sound. The first three songs featured three different guys on bass spurring three different games of “you know, this kinda sounds like….” The band played most of their underrated gem of an album Say Us and previewed material from their forthcoming disc. They were in top form, evoking favorites from the sweet vocal-driven pop of the Beatles and the Beach Boys to more cerebral keys-and-bass grooves of Steely Dan before letting loose with some shredding Southern rock guitar solos. But no Zeus show would be complete without their signature, pitch-perfect cover of Genesis’s “That’s All.” Like the other bands on the bill, Zeus’s new album will be out soon, and hopefully they’ll return shortly thereafter. Don’t miss ’em when they do. —A. Stein