Towards the end of Urban Cone
’s set last night at the Mercury Lounge in East Village, the bandmates quizzed us all on our Swedish knowledge. After an awkward silence followed a very specific question that nobody knew the answer to, we were asked, “Okay, but you guys know IKEA, right?" The crowd cheered. “Okay, cool. This next song is called IKEA."
Needless to say, the Swedish band knew their audience. “This is a song about a city," bass guitarist and lead singer Emil Gustaffson began, eliciting more cheers from the crowd. We all knew what was obviously coming. “A wonderful city." More cheers. And then, of course, he said “it’s called ‘New York.’" Once the band finished playing the infectious and thunderous pop anthem, we were told that it was only the second time the band had played the song live. This was impressive to say the least, but I found it really surprising. The group performed the track so confidently that I was convinced they’d been playing it live for years. “It’s a good thing we played it here," bass guitarist and lead singer Emil Gustafsson joked. “It doesn’t really work in other cities. For obvious reasons."
I’d never heard of Urban Cone before last night, and honestly, I was surprised by that. Their music just sounds so “in," right now. Take the song they opened with, “Sadness Disease." It’s incredibly catchy, and, like all of the songs they played last night, the instrumentation sounds like it deserves a space on the top 40.
From the get-go, the audience was ridiculously into Urban Cone’s set. Everyone was dancing and bopping around so uncontrollably that at one point someone spilled beer on my shoe (naturally, this made me think “oh, maybe it’s time to move away from the guy jumping up and down with the half-full cup of beer in his hand," but it was so hard to navigate around the space that, at one point, I just dedicated myself to one spot in the middle of the room and accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be able to budge from it any time soon). In between songs, Urban Cone’s lead singers Emil Gustaffson and Rasmus Flyckt, who write all of their songs, proved themselves to be funny, charming leading men. Above all else, they clearly just wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time, and their frequent audience interaction was repaid ten-fold.
For example, the crowd was especially into the aforementioned “IKEA," and responded hilariously to the lyrics in the chorus.
“Road trip to IKEA,"
“We can sleep in the store,"
“Getting drunk on Tequila,"
“Making out on the floor,"
*crowd erupts in cheers louder than the music*
It was awesome to be part of such an energetic audience, and Urban Cone’s performance really deserved to have a reaction like this. They interacted with us all between songs like we were their best friends, and seemed incredibly comfortable on stage.
Oh, and that reminds me: Urban Cone had one hell of an opener last night. The Nashville-based synth-pop band Nightly
played an energetic set that really set the vibe for the evening. Their lead singer dominated the space he was in, moving around and flailing the mic stand about as if it were a dance partner. The band is still relatively new, but they performed so confidently that it was easy to forget that fact. “So we only have four songs out at the moment," they admitted at one point. “So we’re gonna play some new ones for you, is that alright?" One of those songs was “Honest," the title track from their new EP.
Most of the songs they played depended heavily on infectious, distorted guitar-riffs. I especially loved the last song they played, “XO." The hook was stuck in my head as I went back to the bar between the two sets. And, on my way home after the show, I found myself humming what I assumed must have been an Urban Cone song (seeing as how, you know, they’re the band I was just listening to), but eventually I realized that it was that damn “XO" guitar riff again! Check out their performance of the song at YouTube Space LA below. It’ll give you a good idea of what they looked like on stage. They were backlit by the same lighting setup, and moved around just as freely and energetically. Nightly’s EP, Honest
, is out now.
Before Nightly played their last song of the... night (their name makes it feel so weird to type that sentence), they reminded us that the headlining act came a long way to play for us. I kept thinking about this all throughout Urban Cone’s set, mainly because they seemed to be so at home here. Maybe that was because they’re all old high school buddies, as I definitely got the impression that I was watching five friends performing for fun in their garage. They’re all clearly very close with one another, and admirably want to extend this relationship to their fans (they even post videos online documenting their tour, songwriting process, and years-long relationship with each other).
At the end of their set, Gustaffson humorously recognized the limitations of the small space they were playing in, saying something along the lines of, “Okay, so that was actually our last song of the night, but it would be awkward if we just walked into the crowd and then you guys chanted for an encore. So if we could just get a ‘one more song?’" Everyone, myself included, cheered them on and demanded one more song. The band then busted out their new track, “Old School." This was my favorite song of the night, and would have stood out to me as their most memorable performance no matter when they played it in their setlist. Gustaffson’s bass playing sounded fantastic, the otherworldly synths demanded my attention, and the hook had everyone up front literally hopping, seemingly against their will (I’m listening to the track as I write this, and I just realized that I’ve been tapping my foot and swaying my head from left to right the entire time. It’s slightly embarrassing).
If there was any takeaway from last night’s performance, it’s that both Urban Cone and Nightly are two fun, head-bobbing pop acts that you should keep your eye on. I look forward to seeing them both again, should they return to this neck of the woods.