Yellowbirds Sounded as Good as Ever on Friday at Mercury Lounge

August 26th, 2013

Yellowbirds/Landlady – Mercury Lounge – August 23, 2013

It was another fun, fun, fun late night at Mercury Lounge on Friday. First Landlady played an awesome, noisy art rock that may be best approximated by Talking Heads meets Frank Zappa with a very ’80s–Steve Winwood vocal from frontman Adam Schatz. Harmonies and weirdo polyrhythmic prog were all glued together by the drummer. They closed their set big, with Sam Cohen joining in, adding a mid-song two-guitar space out that broke down into a monologue from Schatz before a build-up sing-along, the whole crowd singing “Always!” Keep an eye out for Landlady.

Cohen’s Yellowbirds hit the stage at midnight and were sharp from the start. Their opening song featuring a noise jam that melted to a fantastic two-guitar section with melodic guitar from both Cohen and Josh Kaufman. In the past, the stage at a Yellowbirds show has been populated with extra instruments. But the present incarnation is just two guitars, bass and drums, and the simplicity seems to have enlivened the material. Cohen and Kaufman’s guitars were constantly anticipating and complementing each other, two old friends telling a single anecdote with perfect timing. The set bounced effortlessly between the new album, Songs from the Vanished Frontier, and the tried-and-true material from The Color. Bassist Brian Kantor and drummer Annie Nero, laying down the groovy before a nice double guitar bridge, were a highlight of “Julian,” while “The Honest Ocean,” was crunchy with whammy reverb from Cohen.

Late-night crowds can go in many directions, but Friday’s was the right mix of rowdy and appreciative, with an enthusiastic patron repeatedly and playfully yelling, “I love you” until Cohen hopped down from the stage to serenade the wooing fan with his guitar. Which is to say that the band was as animated as ever. Returning the favor, Schatz joined in on keyboards—and a guest vocalist came out—for a fun, decidedly after-midnight Serge Gainsbourg cover. The set closed with “Young Men of Promise,” Yellowbirds sounding as good as ever, perhaps more than a few in the crowd thinking to themselves, “I love you!” —A. Stein