After a weekend spent a) tending to a cold, b) avoiding the sludge and St. Patrick’s Day amateurs, and c) having fun with a borrowed Wii, I went to Mercury Lounge on Sunday to catch Londoners Fujiya & Miyagi play their first of two post-SXSW NYC shows.
Actually anxious for a night of music, I showed up at 8pm so I could catch all three bands, only to find out French band Prototypes had canceled (weather and flights, I’m assuming). That left me with 90 minutes till the first act, so I went wandering down Avenue A in search on some food, only to end up at the just-reopened Death & Company for a fancy drink. Like the Pegu Club, this is the kind of place where drink nerds come to ooh and ahh over bitters and lemon wedges with carved patterns in their skins. But there is no denying the drinks are great and, despite the prices, there is a lack of pretense. The bartenders are just into what they do. Also like Pegu Club, they’ve got amazing, super-dense ice cubes that don’t melt immediately and turn your $12 drink into slush.
Death & Company also has a food menu, a nice-looking one, but I opted just to knock back a couple drinks (a fancified Old Fashioned, and a really good one called Monongahela Mule) and got a couple slices at Ray’s on Houston where I met my friend Dorrit.
We then headed into Mercury Lounge to catch openers Home Video. A three-piece from Brooklyn, they were a rock band with electronic overtones. Kind of Radiohead (or Thom Yorke’s solo album), kind of New Order (I kept making up Peter Hook basslines while listening) and kind of mid-90s bands like Hooverphonic, Lamb, and Laika. Their drummer was good. The singer’s striped tie was rad. I just wish the songs were stronger.
The crowd was appreciative of Home Movies but it was apparent everyone was there for Fujiya & Miyagi, whose album Transparent Things finally got a stateside release about a month ago. I didn’t get around to listening to it till this year, but it has stayed in heavy rotation for the last two months. I was pretty excited to see them.
Fujiya & Miyagi have two sides: the droney, two-chord Krautrock jams, as well as slinky, minimalist funk not that far from Chic or early Shreikback. (David Brest’s breathy vocals are at times a dead ringer for Barry Andrews.) They do both very, very well. The musicianship was tight (bassist Matt Hainsby is a groove machine) and the sound was crisp and not too loud. The crowd was into it, but it never lept into a dance party territory till their set-ending "Collarbone," easily the funkiest thing on the album.
What kept thing from going into overdrive, in my opinion, was the lack of a drummer. Fujiya & Miyagi’s music is not so complicated or synth-oriented that a real musician providing backbeat would be unimaginable, so I’m not sure why they don’t just go ahead and get one. Songs like the Talking Heads-ish "Photocopier" and instrumental "Conductor 71" almost demand live drums. And very good show like tonight could have easily become something great.
Music Snobbery was also in attendance. And here’s a cute video for F&M’s "Collarbone":
Picture swiped from Muzikspy’s Flickr photostream.