Monday, July 11, 2011

Black Lodge's debut outshined Mickey's return

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Imagine your band is playing its first show. Do you want an under-the-radar debut in a near-empty bar in the ‘burbs, just in case you screw up? Or would you rather the potential for a balls-out introduction to your local music scene, opening for a much-ballyhooed band of young punks? Black Lodge, a new Atlanta four-piece named after David Lynch’s epicenter of evil in Twin Peaks, chose the latter and got off to a rocky start Sunday, July 3 at the Earl.

Bassist Jennifer von Schlichten has faced large-scale crowds as a DJ on bills with Diplo and Spank Rock, but essentially, when paired with second bassist Karen Horn (yes, two basses, no guitar), the two are the greenest of green in terms of brandishing instruments onstage. The moral support of seasoned musician Jennie Castillo (keys) and the super, super-seasoned Adam Bruneau (drums) helped the band live up to the gloomy connotations of its name.

Ominous synth lines, deadpan vocals (mostly from Castillo and von Schlichten) and deep, minimalistic bass made for a generally Joy Division-like sound — spooky enough to match the wild, murder-hungry grin of Twin Peaks’ mysterious antagonist BOB. Mid-paced songs were a highlight, as the slower numbers sounded empty, and dragged on.

Husseins played with the necessary energy of a super-speed punk band, but with little effort or sweat—a commodity only youth and varieties of ectodermal dyplasia can offer. (Yeah, I Googled that.) Apologies were made for sound issues, but none were easily audible. Either that or I was too busy wondering if, even mid-set, they’d outshined the headliner. On almost any given bill an upset in the Husseins’ favor could be feasible. But the feverish Mac Blackout (Mark McKenzie), frontman for Chicago foursome Mickey, wouldn’t let that happen.

Back for a second stint after April’s Mess-Around, the group’s second coming seemed highly anticipated. Unfortunately, however, the turnout was most shallow for Mickey—even Black Lodge had more listeners, although many were friends of the band.

Regardless, Mickey played as though it was their final performance, steaming with energy and sweating from the get-go. McKenzie displayed a naturally manic intensity that’s altogether ageless. Let’s hope the fresh-faced Husseins were watching.

Mickey is a rabid throwback to ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, with a little weirdo glam here and there. One shirtless player wore a wig that, from afar, looked like a bunch of blue-grey bananas atop his head. The band ripped through their mostly fast-paced repertoire while McKenzie plowed through the audience, knocking down a guy with a cane at one point. But he picked him right back up, palmed the fellow’s head and shouted gargled lyrics right in his face.

I missed one band at this year’s Mess-Around, and it was Mickey. I thought I’d kicked myself enough over it, but after seeing McKenzie—an irresistible, albeit dirty, crazy-eyed frontman bringing the band’s energy to a point, I deserve another punt. And for the hordes of folks who typically turn out for punk shows but bailed this time, you missed out.

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