When I picture the Cribs, the image that pops up is often Ryan Jarman, eyes closed, screaming into a microphone, with blood pouring down his chin. Last July, after I’d officially fallen for the brothers Jarman at SXSW, they played one of the most buzzed about NYC shows of the summer with Hard-Fi and Nine Black Alps at Mercury Lounge and then two days later played to a very different crowd in a very different room when they opened for the Kaiser Chiefs at Webster Hall. Every time I’d seen them, Ryan was all bloody. This time around, the clothes may not have changed (Ryan’s still rocking the white and red cap-sleeve t with the beer stain) but no blood was shed last night at the brief and steamy Spinhouse Live early show at the Gibson performance space or the following show at Mercury Lounge.
On stage, the Cribs are everything that I want from a rock band. Ryan and Gary yelp, swagger and scream vocals at each other, while Ross uses his drum kit as a jungle gym climbing on his stool, scaling his tom, generally challenging his drum kit to be victorious under the constant assault. While Ryan remained blood-less, the night was not without injury. On the rented kit at Spinhouse Live, when Ross moved in on the kit, the kit fought back. Tom drum on the floor, stool tipped over, Ross on the floor. But that didn’t stop him from crawling all over his kit at Merc later that night, in front of a slightly more responsive crowd. At the later show, the Jarman’s chugged through tracks off their self-titled debut and current Wichita/World’s Fair release The New Fellas. Recognizable singles “Hey Scenesters!” and “Mirror Kissers” got the crowd moving and “whoa-oh-oh-oh”-ing along with the band and favorite songs from the first record “Another Number” and “The Lights Went Out” kept the fans happy.
The Cribs deliver distinctively British rock, alternately sounding bored and completely overtaken by the rock, while delivering their witty drawling lyrics over bass-heavy tunes that use guitar riffs as punch-lines and bare-boned propulsive drum parts. While being completely entertaining, the Cribs’ on stage presence never seems unnatural or put on, even with blood gushing and drum climbing. Set closer, “The Wrong Way To Be” showcases all that is fantastic about the band. Gary delivers his spoken bits sounding bored, then furious when he screams out “your scene has got a lot to answer for,” Ryan and Gary yelp the refrain together, and while Ryan humps his guitar against his amp causing ear-splitting feedback, Gary stands on his side of the stage, one leg nonchalantly crossed over the other, looking at his brother with the rest of us while holding the song together before dropping his bass and walking off the stage. If you’re of the LA persuasion, check out the fellas when they play Spaceland tomorrow and treat yourself to some old-fashioned rock & roll.