It Might Get Quiet

March 3rd, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger – Mercury Lounge – March 2, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger - Mercury Lounge - March 2, 2014
Loud concerts are the norm because soft volumes are so much harder to control, and the subtleties of every sound are amplified under their sonic microscope. MC Taylor, better known as Hiss Golden Messenger, walked onstage at Mercury Lounge last night with just his acoustic guitar, but he began things with only his voice, lulling the crowd into silence. “That’s an icebreaker. If I can do that, then I can do anything to you,” said Taylor after finishing. Following some remarks about Oscars night and some jokes about Matthew McConaughey, he performed a few more of his songs, getting things so hushed that he mentioned that it was “German quiet” in the room, further explaining that it’s sometimes hard to know if German and Polish audiences are enjoying the show they become so quiet.

For the North Carolina–based singer, this tour was an impromptu trip up the East Coast to bring him north to Brooklyn, where he’ll be mastering his latest record, due out this summer. In fact, it was so impromptu that he said he’d be calling in sick to work on Monday: “The funny thing is they have no idea that I couldn’t make it in tomorrow, even if I tried.” Many of Taylor’s songs are inspired by a sense of place in North Carolina, running freely with themes of his clay-dirt home state and the Haw River that runs through it. He’s so gifted at playing his guitar that not a single sound fell out of harmony with the rest of the spectrum. Even the percussive clicks of his guitar pick hitting the strings, something you rarely hear at a concert, fell perfectly into place.

Taylor’s voice bent perfectly to the dynamics of his singing. And his soft voice demanded careful listening. When he got louder, his voice became more nasally, cutting through the air like a knife. In these moments, he squinted, as if he was focusing his vision so as not to lose sight of the muse he was chasing. Taylor eventually stopped to ask what the audience would like to hear, playing through requests of “Jesus Shot Me in the Head” and other favorites before closing his set with “Sufferer (Love My Conquerer),” a song he dedicated to the late Jason Molina, the lead singer and songwriter from the band Magnolia Electric Co. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici |