In the Crowd: Rainer Maria/Dirty on Purpose
Rainer Maria/ Dirty on Purpose/ The Upwelling/ Pela
@ The Mercury Lounge/New York City
Friday September 10, 2004
As far as emo goes, it's impossible to find a more quintessential genre defining moment than the opening blast of Rainer Maria's "Tinfoil". Two voices, male and female, burst out with "God Damn It/ I'm not talking about my heart/ like its something you could break". Its three lines of dramatic frustration capture angst better than any lengthy love poem could. With Rainer Maria as a headliner, the rest of night's music built towards that moment of cathartic breakdown.
It had to start somewhere to get to that point. The able Pela straight out of Red Hook, Brooklyn opened up. Pela owes a debt to English groups of the early 1980's but thankfully isn't a clone of dance rock or bad haircut new wave bands. There's something more vibrant and vital in its sounds, something closer to U2 or Echo and the Bunnymen. Frontman Billy Swanson sings with a drawn out affected voice that fits the music by sounding ambiguously English, but without pretension. The show was the group's first in over 6 month and now minus a keyboardist. They all managed to play impressively with only a few signs of rust. The biggest momentum killer was a series of broken strings. Otherwise the potential of an impressive group was showcased. With an increased presence of shows the group could rightfully become home town heroes.
Shimmering like a well refined rock group, the Upwelling grabbed the attention of a gradually increasing crowd. It's music is a pleasing and intoxication cocktail of maximum hooks to make one woozy. "Murdered by A Big Bomb" is a standout that calls to mind a group like the Stills, and indeed most all modern rock with a vague hint of English influence. For a relatively new group the group came off like a strikingly polished live band.
Local favorite Dirty on Purpose commanded a near sellout crowd for its set. What's most special about the group is its ability to switch from subdued and dreamy moments to a hyperactive stomp. Dirty on Purpose's music sounds like a wave of fuzz washing over a collaborative effort of groups like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub, and Blonde Redhead. The greatest example of subtlety as beauty from the band's catalog is the enchanting "Mind Blindness". Perhaps deeming it too subdued the group decided not to include it in this set. Yet even with the omission, the music along with the tag team vocals of Keyboardist, guitarist and drummer created a really pleasant set from one of New York City's best local groups. Unlike the headliners, Dirty on Purpose are unknown nationally. However the group did well to prove that this anonymity is unjustified and will soon be a thing of the past.
Brooklyn by way of Wisconsin luminaries Rainer Maria came next to woo a hometown crowd after a long stretch on the road. From the way they ripped through numbers like "Better Version of Me", and "Ears Ring" it's a mystery that the group does not get more due as a great live band. Listening to the trio on record can often be a somber and melodramatic exercise, but whereas they are a good band on headphones, they become an excellent group live. They're always tagged a sensitive and poetic group and while there's always argument's for that, there's also another side to the group live. There's frustration, and emotion, and no hint of blandness, and with a consistently faster tempo even aggression.
What Rainer Maria has that most groups never achieve is synergy. Even as Kyle Fischer bobs and weaves like a prize fighter on stage with his guitar Caithlin De Marrais' bass work and voice are gripping, and confident, and William Kuehn's drumming is energetic. As it proved itself on Friday it was at once chaotic and frenetic, but also undeniably tight. As expected the group closed with the almost classic "Tinfoil" an excellent cap to a night of 3 potential and one established local favorite.
- Dan Williams | 2004-09-20
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