A Loud Night of Rock at Mercury Lounge

June 12th, 2012

2:54/Widowspeak – Mercury Lounge – June 11, 2012

Many of New York City’s best-kept secrets are hidden in plain sight, easily accessible and there for the taking if you only knew. Take Brooklyn’s Widowspeak, a band that seems to play at one club or another every night, unassumingly honing their live show, impressing audiences on a regular basis. Last night they were easily found in their natural habitat onstage on the Lower East Side, this time at Mercury Lounge. When not delivering haunting vocals, lead singer Molly Hamilton shot glances into the audience that were all at once nervous, coy and mysterious, perfectly summing up the sound. As usual, Widowspeak’s incessant playing showed in its live performance. The songs are dark and melancholic, a prairie psychedelic with discomforting guitar solos and an I’ve-gotta-roam rhythm. A brand new song (“two days new”), barely ready for the stage, helped show where the seams are as four distinct parts—vocals, guitar, bass and drums—showed signs of what will soon be, but not quite yet. The set’s centerpiece was the group’s signature cover of “In the Pines,” which, alone, is worth a Monday night out. Every band should own a song the way Widowspeak owns this spooky, twangy, otherworldly version.

Closing out the night, the UK’s 2:54 took the same boy-girl-boy-girl, guitars-drums-bass formula as Widowspeak and made something complementary but certainly altogether different. Their music had parts, songs shifted from one section to another, the gears twisting like the insides of a watch. The sound was punctuated by basslines so heavy you could feel their weight in the crowd. Beneath this blanket of low end, architectural drumming, a dreamy lead guitar with plenty of bite and a lead singer with a sleek style and bright lipstick, was a look evoking a dancing mannequin in an old Robert Palmer video. While the music was loud rock and roll at its core, there was an urge to go even louder, like a hot shower that could get even hotter. The late set gained strength and momentum as 2:54 mostly worked off songs from their self-titled debut. With the band shrouded in a static darkness, the normal bevy of photographers needed to go with the flashes, creating its own light show and adding to the mystery. —A. Stein