It was a bit of a surprise to see Toronto’s post-punk trio METZ return to New York last night for a show at the Mercury Lounge, especially so soon after laying waste to most of the city back in October during this year’s CMJ Marathon. Why return to the scene of the crime so soon? Why not give people time to recuperate? What if your ears were still ringing?
Well, METZ didn’t care. And neither did openers Hunters, who warmed up, or bludgeoned, the crowd with ferocious, grunge-y punk tracks that channeled Dirty-era Sonic Youth while allowing for a bit more call-and-response vocal interplay between head-Hunters Isabel Alemida and Derek Watson. Sporting a Michael Myers t-shirt and bright pink hair, Almeida was a formidable presence, thrashing about to each song and often sharing the mic with the more restrained Watson, who was responsible for many of the song’s propulsive riffs and tossed-off, throaty verses.
The group has about three speeds (fast, breakneck and broke-neck) and at a certain point their curdling guitar parts start to blend together, but they floated along on charm and goodwill, despite their scary name. “Thanks for coming out even though the Trapped In The Closet premiere is going on right down the street,” said Watson at one point. No one made a rush for the exit, but a few “Oh shit, I forgot about that!” glances were exchanged.
METZ began their set in total darkness. When I spoke to guitarist Alex Edkins back in October he explained how important the band’s live set was in developing their ’80s-indebted, Albini-worshiping, Jesus Lizard-summoning sound, and the band definitely knows how to bring a touch of punk theatricality to a tiny space. After an opening salvo of squalling feedback, the band finally appeared, backlit to look like menacing apparitions from the noise-rock past.
Hilariously enough, the band can’t help cutting their imposing stage presence with careful niceties. Edkins was quick to explain that “Get Off” is meant to get asses shaking. The trio gently goofed on their Canadian accents after some dummy in the audience called out them out on their “a-boot’s.” At one point bassist Chris Slorach invited everyone to come to the next night’s show at the Knitting Factory, but he was quick to admit they’d be playing all the same song cause they only have one album.
But none of these polite platitudes mattered when the band locked into the bass-heavy, eardrum-annihilating tracks from their stellar self-titled debut. As the show progressed mosh pit clusters began to form, and when the group closed with “Wet Blanket” they moved the intensity up another notch. Edkins screamed into the microphone, climbed on the drum set and stabbed at his guitar like it had insulted his family. By the end of the set his glasses were so coated in sweat they needed windshield wipers. Stretching into a feral, muscular post-rock behemoth, the song hinted at what could be next for the band: more guitars, more volume, more everything. Hopefully they come back in a month.