Out and About: Eight and a Half
  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2012

  • Posted by: Don Saas

The Lower East Side was taken over by Canadian artists (and a heavily Canadian audience) for an Arts & Crafts Records show the Mercury Lounge. Seriously, there were more Canadians on that stage than at a Sex Bob-Ombs show. It's not often that we bandy around words like "ebullient" to describe the feel of a show, but that's exactly how the four act set at Mercury went down. The show featured performances from a project of Justin Peroff (Eight and a Half) from legendary Canadian super-group Broken Social Scene, as well as two other fantastic opening acts and a stellar headlining performance from Canadian indie rockers Zeus that rocked so hard it nearly brought the Mercury Lounge down with it. This was an evening with each act already a ton of fun to begin with but with each successive performance slowly one-upping the other til there was almost more energy in the room than you could handle.

The first opener (and the only American band of the night), Radical Dads, started things off on a high note, and the evening just progressed from there. Whether we're talking about guitarist Chris Driken prancing around the stage like Elvis Costello, vocalist Lindsay Baker providing the emotional undercurrent of the music, or drummer Robbie Guertin wailing away on his drum kit like a pro, Radical Dads seemed happy to be there, providing their fast, in-your-face rock and roll with enough energy and excitement to get the crowd pumped for all of the later acts. The act probably needs some more polish, but like every act of the night, they've got such a killer sound that they're likely one breakthrough single from being more buzzy.

Gold & Youth came on stage next, and solidified the theme of the evening: each band would subsequently take things to the next level. Reminiscent of a more up-tempo and guitar driven version of The National, Gold & Youth matched highly dramatic and passionate vocals and lyrics (from magnetic frontman Matthew Lyall) with guitarist Murray McKenzie providing a very cool, modern Eric Clapton vibe to the whole production. The songs were dripping with more hooks than a fishing boat, and there was a passion to the whole performance that was universally relatable.

Eight and a Half took the stage around ten. For those not in the know, it's a trio consisting of Justin Peroff (BSS) as well as Dave Hamelin and Liam O'Neill of the Stills. After their performance last night, they're in the running to be our new favorite BSS-related project. Managing to provide a very sonic and textured (and simply professional performance) feel to the proceedings while still remaining interesting and entertaining, Eight and a Half brought an infectious electronic energy. Justin Peroff was as engaging as a drummer here as he was with the Scene and Dave Hamelin's vocals/guitar playing provided the visible center of the act. Tracks like "Go Ego" and "Scissors" took the audience by surprise with their seemingly effortless complexity and depth and this was made all the more remarkable by the band's statement that this was only their second live show ever. We're pretty sure they will have plenty more performances to follow.

We were convinced that there was going to be no way to top the phenomenal set from Eight and a Half and then out of nowhere, Zeus took the stage to end the evening, and they blew all expectations out of the water. Eight and a Half likely makes for a better album experience, but Zeus simply made that stage theirs. With three-part harmonies, band members regularly exchanging instruments, each of the three singers taking turns on lead vocals, and many extended jam sessions, Zeus may have been Canadian but they nailed the essence of Americana rock and power pop better than any American band has since Boys and Girls in America. The crowd was singing along to their tunes and seemed to know the words to nearly every track. We weren't as familiar with Zeus before this set, but you can bet your ass we'll be digging into their library of music immediately. If you ever have the chance to see them live, take it because they knocked us out of our metaphorical seats and even the literal couches at Mercury.

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