On the closing eve of a very shitty week, I am standing on the corner of East Houston and 1st Ave, drunk dialing my best friend in Seattle. I lament my mundane failures, slurring and shouting a bit over the traffic zipping by, the ambulance sirens, and whatever other unidentified noise pollution that is turning my phone call into an extreme sport. It’s one hell of a way to start the night.
I’ve had five drinks since work got out, which for me is equivalent to licking a poisonous frog. Some combination of the motivational phone chat and my inebriation has me back in a hopeful spirit nonetheless, and I decide that instead of leaning creepily against the exterior of the Mercury Lounge, I should stagger over to that group of guys and trouble them for a cigarette.
“I beg your pardon gentlemen, but would it be terribly possible that I could perhaps buy a cigarette from you?” There is no explanation for the need I feel to become an English nobleman from the 19th century when I’m drunk. It just happens. One of the guys hands me a cigarette, refusing my rumpled dollar bill, and I’m relieved. Let’s be honest, no one who offers to pay for a cigarette does it without a burning reluctance, and if the money is accepted, it is seen as the most despicable offense to the occasionally-smoking public.
The four of us start chatting. They’re a chill group of guys who eventually score mucho points in my book when they invite me to a BBQ the following day. “There’s going to be a keg and about 100 lbs of steak, burgers, and hotdogs.” Be still, my heart. I ask if they are here for the show tonight.
“Oh yeah, we’re actually playing it.”
“ Oh, what band are you in?”
“No shit! I’m supposed to be covering you guys tonight. I’m from AudioFemme.”
“ Oh, well, be nice!”
“ You already gave me a cigarette and invited me to a BBQ so I’d say we’re on pretty good ground at the moment.”
I’m already feeling better, maybe even a bit more sober. I order water at the bar like a champ and head into the venue. Lazyeyes take the stage and begin their energetic set-a fittingly gritty mixture of shoegaze and garage pop. The rhythm guitair and vocals are far-off and softly distorted in a manner reminiscent of Sonic Youth. The tang of lead guitar prickles in and out of the more ambient soundscape.
They have a solid stage presence and all seem equally enthusiastic as they do focused while playing. Jeremy, who invited me to the BBQ, is a more than adequate drummer, and he and the bassist have an affectionate stage rapport. The lead singer seems to be in his own world, putting on more of a self-conscious performance than any other member. He’s a pretty man, and he dances around like he just might know it. Then again, this could be my par-drunken interpretation of someone who is truly enjoying himself, not giving half a shit what onlookers think. Behind the boys is a swirling projection of wandering ink in fuchsia, emerald, and royal blue. I look to my left and there are two guys bent over a projector, one pouring shallow pools of pigment on the surface, the other meticulously blowing through a straw to make it sort of slow dance across the stage.
Next on the bill is Stardeath and White Dwarfs, a band that seems to be pretty successful according to the pre-show research I did. I listened to a few of their tracks earlier in the morning, and I wasn’t so thrilled to see them, unlike Lazyeyes, whose discography had me eager for their set. Like Lazyeyes, Stardeath feels the need to dress their stage with special effects. Though while the former did so in a low-fi manner, Stardeath played amid imposing columns of neon light that would be more fitting at laser Pink Floyd.
Their front man Dennis Coyne-nephew of Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne-is all Jim Morrison with long tangled hair and a sheepskin vest. The whole band is giving off that Rockstar vibe and it’s a little too much for me to handle. I suddenly feel relieved that I’m here to cover Lazyeyes and not Stardeath, a band that is described as “ experimental rock,” and yet sounds as clichéd as, well, a musician in a sheepskin vest. To their credit, they did do an impressive cover of David Bowie’s “ Life on Mars” which is not the easiest song to tackle given the vocal range it requires. Oddly enough, it was bassist Casey Joseph who stepped up to the microphone and belted it out.
After Stardeath’s set, Jeremy bought my friends and I all shots of what was called tequila, but what I think may have been an ulcer-inspiring blend of rice wine and acetone. The rest of the evening melted away with every cigarette I lit, beer I drank, and the vital late-night tuna sandwich I ate on the walk home. I never did make it to that BBQ the next day, but at least I made it through the week.