On The List :: Gauntlet Hair, TEEN, and We Barbarians @ Mercury Lounge [10.21.11]

This review runs live and in color on the Bowery Presents' House List blog.

Friday night of CMJ, with everyone a little worse for wear, found Mercury Lounge as the home to the Windish Agency showcase, although it may as well have been an echo chamber. The reverberated Gauntlet Hair took the stage in the 9 o’clock slot. The latest of the blog-to-label bands, they parlayed a snapping first single, “I Was Thinking” into an album featuring their trademark high-fret guitar-board strums and slamming drums and bass. Looking a bit like kids who might have run around in a fixed-gear bicycle gang at your liberal arts college, the band played material from their self-titled debut LP, including stunners “Keep Time” and “Top Bunk,” like Dirty Projectors cuts that got dropped to the bottom of a backyard swimming pool, all glittering guitars and troubling echoes.

Up next the surprisingly charming Teen (good luck searching for them on the Internet), an all-female five-piece, claimed to be three-fifths sisters and 100 percent Canadian. Now playing in and around Brooklyn, the band was dressed to kill, eliciting drunken commentary from some grungy looking guys in the middle of the crowd, which the quintet handled and dismissed with the deftness of a stand-up comedian. Playing a tight set of dream pop, the band felt like one part Stars, one part Wilson Phillips and one part School of Seven Bells. Seeming to build converts with each passing song (the yelling dudes were now loudly proclaiming their love for the lead singer or maybe the bassist or perhaps both), the ladies in their evening wear proved to be the type of pleasant surprise that CMJ still provides.

We Barbarians, with a considerably smaller sound check and a considerably larger sound, took the stage at 11 as the most energetic three-piece of the festival. Trafficking in the kind of sound that might have kept We Are Scientists from getting kicked off Virgin/EMI, We Barbarians opened with the shimmering “Headspace,” full of banging drums and soaring guitars. Lead singer Dave Quon is a force of nature, even on the allegedly more thoughtful tracks of the band’s most recent EP, Headspace. A drummer sweating through his beard and a singer sweating through his shirt aren’t new semiotics in rock music, but there is something in We Barbarians that feels singular, loud and important. The bands would move on, perhaps to the rest of their tours or to even later showcases, and the echoes of the second-to-last evening of another CMJ would ring out without the help of a delay pedal.

Listen :: Gauntlet Hair - "Keep Time"
Listen :: Gauntlet Hair - "Top Bunk"
Listen :: We Barbarians

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