Noah and the Megafauna/Jenny O. – Mercury Lounge – July 2, 2013
What do you call the Tuesday night of a three-day workweek? Regardless, it can throw the week off-kilter a bit, which is fine, because the music onstage last night at Mercury Lounge was also slightly off-kilter, in a very good way. Noah and the Megafauna headlined the early show, bringing to mind some sort of biblical flooding and pairs of animals crammed onto a boat. Well, there was plenty of cramming going on, with 10 musicians onstage, including a pair of guitars, a violin and a three-person reed section. The musical mix was about as motley as the ark must have been, a salad of gypsy jazz, Dixieland and baroque pop, surprisingly swinging and lots of fun. Definitely not the kind of sound the Merc is accustomed to, but maybe that was the point. Probably those left off the ark would’ve enjoyed it best. This was a set of songs for sinners, like “Moan All Night” with a dark, Arabian energy featuring solos from pretty much everyone. In between songs, the eponymous Noah sipped beer with one hand and did shots with the other, running the band like a mishmash jam session at a house party in ’30s Paris. After one slowed-down song in the middle of the show, things picked up with a series of exotic grooves, the band clicking on “On and On” amongst others.
The late-show headliner, Jenny O., is from Los Angeles by way of the “tri-state area,” which I believe is a euphemism for Long Island. Her music was a mélange of influences and styles, evoking Fleetwood Mac, Edie Brickell and Creedence Clearwater Revival throughout the set. She opened with “Learned My Lessons,” featuring a Simon & Garfunkel–feelin’ groovy vibe and followed it up with the dreamy, twangy title track off her wonderful new album, Automechanic. Jenny O. had a two-shots-and-two-tokes kind of giddiness going on, teetering a bit at the start, whether part of her thing or not. The band, dubbed the High Society, kept that precipice-dangling energy and focused it admirably. I was absolutely flummoxed when she announced a few songs later that this was actually her first time playing with them—and that they had only met a few hours earlier.
As the set unfolded, mostly with material off the new album, Jenny O. sharpened considerably, switching to electric guitar for some added ferocity. After a couple of solo acoustic numbers, including a cover of the Whigs’ “Rock and Roll Forever,” the show really got moving. “Come Get Me” was high-energy fun with a rocking guitar solo, and “Lazy Jane” was a highlight, the band tight as a veteran touring act and Jenny O. sounding like a slow-burning Stevie Nicks. The singer-songwriter’s voice was like a chameleon, her banter flavored with a mix of Southern, Los Angeles and New York accents, and her singing almost beautiful but absolutely enchanting. When the band exhausted all their prepared material, she returned for a solo encore, fulfilling the request for “Won’t Let You Leave” with her strongest vocal performance of the night and adding an unwound cover
of Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River,” perfectly capping off this rare Thednesday night. —A. Stein