Words by P. Elizabeth Cawein
Photos by Dylan Cox
Wednesday night, I'm at the Mercury Lounge to see Ravens and Chimes, Holly Miranda and White Rabbits. It's packed to the gills in that way those small lower east side venues tend to get, where you're concerned that the guy tripped out on acid, slam-dancing next to the stage might either a) take out one of your kidneys or b) get electrocuted by amp cables.
[Ravens and Chimes]
Ravens and Chimes opened things up to a smaller, but growing crowd, bringing maybe a few too many "Whoah-oh-oh" choruses into the mix for me, but still making a good show of it. They've got this nice combination of sounds, from the flute to the xylophone to the synths, that makes their otherwise slightly ordinary indie rock jams a little more unique, with a little more personality.
Next up was Holly Miranda, the woman (I have to confess) I really came to see. It was only her third solo show, but she made it seem like she and her band had been playing that music together for at least a little longer than that. It's an interesting soundscape, adding in the violin with the traditional rock set-up, and for the most part it works. But really it's all about the voice, and in my mind with Holly Miranda it'll always be about the voice. She has such control over this potentially unwieldy instrument she possesses -- tons of natural vibrato, beautiful soprano pitches, almost operatic at times -- and she knows how to make it sound rock 'n' roll, but also how to not sound rock 'n' roll, and create this intense juxtaposition with the music.
Towards the end of the set she pushed the guitar aside for a little tickling of the ivories, and particularly on the last song of the set it was striking. But I hated the staging that required her to be trapped behind that bulky keyboard for the entire show -- one of the things I love about watching her play is watching her play, and we didn't really get to do that Wednesday.
Then, the White Rabbits came to the stage. And in that moment, I was suddenly aware that the crowd of people around me had changed. It had changed into the side of the music fan spectrum that I dread entering. Because here's the thing. Sweaty, disheveled hipsters singing along to every song? I get you. You and me, we're friends. I may not know all the words exactly like you do, but I feel where you're coming from. We're on the same wavelength.
Crazy drunk fan girls knocking into me with your Bud Light and taking MySpace-hold-out pictures of yourself with me looking pissed in the background? We are not friends. I do not get you. I would like you to check that Bud Light at the door, please.
And I'm not saying the entire crowd had changed -- the hipsters were still there, along with the regular folks, drinking a beer and doing a little awkward dancing. But for some reason I ended up in fan-girl zone. And the screeching and drunkenly sexual cat calls were all up in my business, which is the last place you want anything like that to be.
Nonetheless, once the White Rabbits started playing and the screeches were drowned out, it was a solid set. I almost always love piano rock just for being piano rock, but the White Rabbits I found myself liking for very different reasons. Their percussion philosophy is like just about nothing I've seen in straight rock 'n' roll. They had one drum set plus additional drums being played by a second percussionist. The beat owned the music. The sound was so intense and so pulsing at times I felt like I was in marching band again -- that kind of rhythm can't help but draw you in.