I think I’m going to spend my last month in NYC (my teaching contract and fellowship expire at the end of May) exploring some of the smaller venues around the City checking out lesser known, local acts from the area. So I began this chapter of “local live music” at the amazing little space on Houston Street known as the Mercury Lounge. I have been listening through the entire Jethro Tull discography over the past few weeks, and was in the mood for some live progressive rock. Emanuel and the Fear is a Brooklyn band with a nice local following – the presence of several little old Jewish women in the audience (presumably the grandparents of some of the performers), certainly signaled this this was a bona fide Brooklyn band, rather than a bunch of Brooklynite wannabie hipsters from Paducah. At one point in its evolution, Emanuel and the Fear existed as an eleven piece outfit, including nearly a full orchestra in their live performances. They have since paired their membership down to six – considering the relatively small venues that this band often plays in around Brooklyn and Manhattan, it seems the sheer practicality of having sufficient space within which to perform has probably influenced that move. The current six member manifestation consists of guitar, bass, drums, violin, cello, and a guy playing both synths and flute. Previous to the show, I hadn’t heard much from this band other than some YouTube clips and a few cuts from various EPs available on their Myspace page. With all of the performers and variety of instrumentation, their sound is big, and I was intrigued to see how it would translate in a venue as small as the Mercury Lounge. The band just finished recording a brand new full length album (not yet released), and the show’s set list was composed of the tracks from the disc, which they are apparently preparing to take on a tour of Germany later in the summer.
In spite of the spatial limitations, Emanuel and the Fear’s live performance grandly ascended from the small stage, and I was surprised how aggressive sounding a nerdy looking guy with cello, a wispy young woman with a violin, and a small man with a flute can sound when matched with a pounding bass line, bristling electric guitar, and some complex, heavy drum beats (among all of the excellent performers in this band, drummer Jeff Gretz is a definite stand out). The energetic yet orchestrated feel of their music is nicely complimented by bedtime story lyrics of lead singer and guitarist Emanuel Ayvas. In several songs, Ayvas’ combination of deep, clean vocals and occasional shouts and groans were also nicely complimented by the back-up vocals of violinist Liz Hanley. All of the songs, without exception were long, layered with sound, interesting, and tight. As might be apparent from my horrible photo from the show, I had nothing more than a crappy cell phone to capture some images. Check the link below for a cool studio performance of the song “Wooble” which they performed last night. Next stop on the train to local music is Webster Hall in Manhattan featuring one of my currently favorite synth pop bands, Chairlift.