Bluesy Garage Rock with a Twinge of Country Heartache

August 17th, 2012

Sonny and the Sunsets – Mercury Lounge – August 16, 2012

Hailing from the birthplace of Beat poets and vagabonds, Sonny Smith is the multitalented artist: musician, artist and playwright. Talk about a triple threat. For a 2010 project, he not only curated artists to create cover art for 100 Records but also recorded 200 songs for the pieces with the likes of Jolie Holland and Miranda July. Needless to say, this boy is one prolific motherfucker.

Rolling into Mercury Lounge late last night, Sonny and the Sunsets provided a bluesy night of indie garage rock with a twinge of country heartache. Smith opened with thanks to the audience saying how happy he was when anyone shows up. From there he and his Sunsets began with “I See the Void,” off their latest release, Longtime Companion. Throughout the night, Smith chatted about subjects from the fictional future demise of his band to the otherworldliness of science fiction. On “Death Cream,” the troubadour traversed into the crowd, as fans encircled him, reemerging onstage to join his international band—hailing from Barcelona to Melbourne—for “Reflections on Youth.”

Setting up the audience for a “country set,” Smith coaxed onlookers to dance side to side for newish tracks “Sea of Darkness,” “Dried Blood” and “My Mind Messed Up.” Although the latest album was country influenced, the heart of Sonny and the Sunsets is more of a garage- and surf-rock sound. It’s most prevalent on older material from Hit After Hit and Tomorrow Is Alright. Fans delighted in “Teen Age Thugs” with backing vocals provided by Alicia Van Den Heuvel of opener Magic Trick. The evening took a stranger sci-fi detour as Smith speak sang, but came back on track with fan favorites “Too Young to Burn” and “Love Among Social Animals.” After several requests from one excited admirer, Smith concluded the show with “Planet of Women,” which was an appropriate ending for a night of summery melancholy, dancing with a lovely lady from audience. —Sharlene Chiu