In the interest of taking my own advice from my last blog, and starting off the new year right, I went to see some of my favorite local bands last month: I saw Cheeky play with P.S. Elliot and Little Lungs on January 1st, and then saw Mortals on January 10th.
On that first day of the new year I ventured into the labyrinthine heart of Brooklyn in single-digit temperatures, determined to have a better year than the last, and convinced that seeing Cheeky was the way to make this happen. I eventually arrived at a rickety little apartment building where all the tenants seem to be friends, and the kind of kids who consider an apartment-wide houseparty/show a regular weekday night, rather than some sort of special event. The radiators were hissing, the floors were creaky, the stairs were narrow, uneven, and seemingly on the verge of collapse. By the time I went up to the top floor where the bands were playing, every hallway and room seemed to be filled to capacity.
Just after I got there, Cheeky launched into their first song with the combative and irreverent energy they bring to all of their performances. In the live setting Cheeky is fast, dirty and vicious. They are the sonic equivalent of a skinny hockey player -- light, fast, and more than capable of slamming you into the boards and taking some of your teeth. Cheeky's fun, off-kilter, intentionally sloppy style of playing always reminds me of the Lunachicks, and always seems to put everyone in the room in a good mood. By the end of their set, their were shouts from the audience of "You fucking twinkie!" This wasn't an insult or homophobic slur, but lyrics from, and requests for their song "GROW FINS TURKEY." While I wasn't exactly shouting for it, I have to admit that I was happy when they decided to close the set with GFT, and I definitely was not the only one. By the end of Cheeky's set, the entire room was singing along.
Just over a week later, I went back to Brooklyn, to see Mortals at the Charleston. Located conveniently near the Bedford Avenue stop on the L, the Charleston is a dim, cozy bar with a very much unfinished basement and some pool tables in the back. That night there were two bartenders with Neil Young-Crazy Horse era hair cuts and beards working, and their decision to play a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band album informed my decision to wait outside for the bands to get set up.
Mortals has only been performing together since August, but you wouldn't know it from watching them. The band faced considerable obstacles that night: there was terrible weather, the venue was cold, the sound was questionable at best, and the openers were frankly terrible. (I could name names, but I won't.) And then their set was disrupted by the smell of a dead mouse and a girl dramatically collapsing to the floor, her drink falling to the ground and her glass shattering into a thousand pieces like a scene from a movie, or something. Despite all of this the band performed valiantly. They produced a sound much grander than the tiny, dirty basement setting, and as soon as they started their set, I forgot about the low temperature and the dead mouse. Mortals already have a distinctly dark and sophisticated sound, and richly layered, inventively structured songs. Even with the fuzzy sound at the Charleston, they recreated their complex pieces with force and intensity. When their half hour set ended, the only critique I could come up with is that it was too short. I was ready to hear more of their new songs, and I was ready right then, damn it.
And that, friends and readers, is the power of the live show. It inspires you, amuses you, forces you to get out of your house and out of your head, and gets you thinking about the possibilities. Will my year actually be better because I went to see Cheeky and Mortals in January? Maybe not. But for those two nights, I felt like maybe this year would be a good one. For those two nights, I thought "this is the new year, but I feel completely different. And when I think about those shows, even now, over a month later, I start to feel that way all over again.
Wanna hear for yourself? Check out Cheeky and Mortals at myspace