On The List :: We Barbarians and Tribes @ Mercury Lounge [12.8.11]

We Barbarians are the best band playing in New York City right now. The crowd at the Mercury Lounge on Thursday, an odd assembly of label heavy-hitters and interns from Island and Universal Records (a function of UK headliner Tribes), didn't at first embrace this reality and then couldn't help avoiding it. A&Rs in their leather jackets, ill-fitting jeans and awkwardly young choice of shoes began to tap their feet. The room filled around the sound that We Barbarians projected from the stage. They joked, as the seven-o'clock band, that they were glad the audience left so much room in the front, that awkward horseshoe that performers hate and crowds can't seem to help, because their bigger crowd was coming later. In a sense, they were correct. This is a band that has something much, much larger on the horizon, and perhaps if we have left some room, it is only for the moment. They played their entire Headspace EP and two other songs and like that, they were gone.

Tribes, a hotly-buzzed outfit from London took the stage next and it was immediately clear where the English press derived their fervor. In much the way that Silversun Pickups stuck their increment borer in the tree of American Alternative Rock, Tribes have done a similar thing with Alternative Britpop of the 1990s. The extraction reveals the tree's rings, the passage of time and how fresh and familiar the dulcet tones of 1996 can sound in 2011. For their first New York show, the band played their single, "Sappho" third, a song destined to survive and thrive on British radio and potentially jump the ocean. A pristine brunette in the front row, and more importantly someone who did not work for the band's label, knew all the words and moved herself to the center. For the purposes of monetizing, this is never a bad thing. Tribes closed the night with their second best song, "We Were Children", a song sporting the type of chorus the will quite rightly make famous, first sung lightly and then wailed at full volume. "These things happen", the band serenade us, "we were children in the mid-90s." And this, broadly defined, was true.

Listen :: Tribes - "We Were Children"
Listen :: We Barbarians - "The Wait Is Over" (Delta Spirit Remix)

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