Last night, NYC’s Mercury Lounge served as a platform for a veritable salad of music genres. After the dark croon of Courtney Barnett, Dutch singer/songwriter Jacco Gardner took over the stage, and for half an hour charmed the audience with his delightful baroque-pop tunes. From the very first chords, Gardner and his band showcased their musical mastery and went on with a fantastic set that lived up to the hype that preceded them.
Even though Gardner can play pretty much every instrument out there, live, he limits himself to keyboard and vocals and leaves the acoustic guitar, bass and drums to his three bandmates who complement him well. Throughout the show, the band devoted themselves to their instruments and this was greeted with a clear enthusiasm from the crowd. As for the music, his fine pop tunes are stroked by psychedelic undertones and accompanied by soothing vocal harmonies that transport the listener to a fantasy-like world that reminisces of both Syd Barrett and Lewis Carroll.
Some sang along, others watched in a daze, but everyone looked satisfied. The venue was surprisingly full for such an early show and Gardner didn’t fail to acknowledge this and thank the attendees on a number of occasions. The show ended with Chameleon from his debut album Cabinet Of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind), which put the last successful note on an already flawless set.
Up next came Cotton Jones to prove that two people with one guitar is all it takes to show a crowd a really nice time. Good music and charisma, that’s really all that matters and Michael Nau brings enough of both with him on stage. The Maryland duo, composed by Nau and his wife Whitney McGraw, led the audience into a mellower, acoustic set that had everyone in the room craving for someone to cuddle with.
On the hands of Nau’s charming personality, the band’s soft bluesy tunes became joyous and uplifting, especially when accompanied by McGraw’s ethereal vocals. The band’s constant engagement with the public and with each other (like when McGraw missed her entrance cue and Nau interrupted the song to point it out) made everyone in the room feel comfortably at home. All in all, it felt like the kind of set that simply could’ve gone on forever.
It didn’t though, and the night took a dramatic turn when L.A. punks Zig Zags came on stage to bring everyone out of the melodic trance. The Californian trio pleasantly surprised the crowd with their extremely loud tunes and outstanding sense of humor that turned the evening into rock-slash-comedy show. “This song’s called magic. It’s about magic,” said Jed Maheu (guitar/vocals) to which everyone in the room laughed (you had to be there). Between hilarious comments and the highly, highly, highly energetic songs, the band ventured into an eventful rock ‘n’ roll show that put a big smile on every now-fully-awakened face in the room. Long story short, they killed it. And the bassist was a long-haired redhead, which, honestly, never hurts.
Photos by Francesca Beltran and Jeff Meininger.