Cultfever and the Hot Sardines Give the Merc Something Different

September 17th, 2013

Cultfever/the Hot Sardines – Mercury Lounge – September 16, 2013



Mercury Lounge is famous for hosting young, emerging acts that would go on to stardom: the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the White Stripes all have a connection to the venerable venue dating back to their humble beginnings. Playing Mercury Lounge is a right of passage in the New York City indie scene. Bands like Cultfever have used this tried-and-true method of taking a step toward those legendary bands. The Brooklyn-based pop outfit has played Mercury Lounge several times to packed houses and adoring crowds. That’s because they’re an indie group on the rise. The Hot Sardines had never played Mercury Lounge before last night, perhaps because they’re a hot jazz band.

The Hot Sardines played first, and we were instantly lifted into a scene from Boardwalk Empire. Singer Elizabeth Bougerol’s airy vocals led each song, and when band members traded solos, Bougerol danced and coaxed more trumpet, more clarinet and even more tap dancing. Jaded head nodding from concertgoers turned into wild swing-dance leg kicks. And for the band’s grand finale, they summoned Joe Durniak and Tamara Jafar of Cultfever for a spirited New Orleans second line that snaked off the stage and through the crowd—not something you see every night on the Lower East Side.

Cultfever might be a more traditional Mercury Lounge band (i.e. no tap dancer), but a lesser group would have fallen flat paired with the Hot Sardines’ endearing quirkiness. Durniak and Jafar have created a wholly unique sound, blending elements of punk and grunge into their catchy synth pop. They burned through their set, as Jafar subdued the room with her sultry voice and Durniak powered the band with bluesy crunch. For “Collector,” Cultfever brought back the Sardines—solely to add more voices to the screaming chorus of band and crowd members shouting “Earthquakes!” at a key moment in the song. It was the perfect cap to an earth-shattering night. —Alex Kapelman