By Eric Markovits
I had been excited to see Merchandise for a while. After last year’s Children of Desire brought them to everybody’s attention I was excited to see if they could bring the album’s bursting-at-the-seams-ness to the stage. And they most certainly did not disappoint. Joined by a saxophonist on two songs, the trio of Carson Cox, David Vassalotti, and Patrick Brady created noisy emotive pop music that filled the room and woke this audience member way up.
Two tours seemed to have collided in one night at the Echo leaving four bands on the bill. Up first was Mark McGuire, formerly of Cleveland, OH group Emeralds. McGuire’s solo setup consists of himself on the guitar which he loops and manipulates to make dreamy soundscapes. Earlier releases of his consisted of mostly airy guitar noodling, often times going past the ten minute mark. He only played two songs but they both sounded new – the second one was announced as coming off his new album – and were buoyed by a more prominent beat, approaching disco at times.
Iowa City’s Wet Hair were up next, playing live as a three piece, though usually the project of percussionist Ryan Garbes and keyboardist/vocalist Shawn Reed only. Reed runs the Night People label which is distributing Merchandise upcoming Totale Nite EP, making them an unsurprising addition to the lineup. Containing former members of noise rock group Raccoo-oo-oon, Wet Hair instead played a set consisting of pretty standard sounding indie-rock, which for me at least is in no way a bad thing.
Ducktails, the formerly solo project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, now a full group, played third and based on the crowd you’d think they were headlining. Ducktails play a form of indie-lounge music that seems pretty in right now. In an attempt to fight my natural inclination towards hating I’ll keep my words on them short. Suffice it to say that having Mark McGuire open for them may not have been such a great idea because their set mostly served to remind me how much more I enjoyed McGuire’s
It was around 12:30 when Merchandise started playing and because I’ve wasted my youth listening to music instead of exercising I was tired from all the standing. Within seconds though, I had come alive as the group kicked off their set with their breakout single “Time.” The crowd had thinned at this point, post-Ducktails, but those that stuck around were rewarded with a performance that felt like it could fall apart at any second and was all the better for it. Vassalotti seemed to have equipment trouble on a few different occasions, probably stemming from the way he threw himself and his guitar across the stage. But even with those issues Carson Cox has a croon that could hook a crowd even if he was singing karaoke. After a few songs off of Children of Desire and a few off the new EP Merchandise’s set was over, but with Totale Nite on the way and sure to be another big release in their early discography, you can be sure you won’t be done hearing about these guys any time soon.