For some reason, every time I drive to Kilby Court, I end up getting lost, driving past the turn in once or twice, and finally looking it up on my phone, which brings me to the epiphany that it's right where I took us in the first place. After the usual routine, and showing up fashionably early, my lovely plus-one and I walked down a truly reminiscent gravel path toward the cleverly hidden venue. Across from the glowing gateway, swirled with vines, I spotted Jake Hall and Shea Ledesma from Daisy & the Moonshines looking dapper. Both were puffing a death stick under the crispy trees arched randomly over the side of the alleyway. After friendly hellos and a small exchange, I walked up to the ticket booth to ask what time the venue was opening. (Kilby is never the same for me without multiple cig breaks per show and I had forgotten to purchase some in my haste). The adorable young lady stamping hands, who didn't know the answer to my question, offered me a free pack of smokes to make sure I would be there when the music began. I'm glad I humbly accepted the act of kindness, because the show started five minutes later, leaving me the perfect opportunity to feed my addiction.
Artesia finished their sound check and stomped into their first song with four familiar tacks of the drumsticks, as decked out teens and the “only slightly older” crowd (outliers were present, of course) shuffled in to the reassigned garage. All four members of the band stared down and bobbed their heads to the uptempo swell of chord progressions their triple-layer guitar sound created. The acoustics were on, except for the under-representation of vocals that seems to often occur in a room that small. Strange stage presence was accompanied by jazzy bass-lines and mood switches that kept my interest intact. Button ups abound, Artesia finished with an entertaining but easily forgettable psychedelic indie rock set.
After a quick break around the fire pit-turned ashtray, Your Meteor bounded onto the stage looking either impish or nervous. The front man, singer and pianist, Thomas Roberts, warbled lyrics and shook his head rapidly to and fro. Funk stylings switched, somehow unexpectedly, to ticking classic rock hooks or choruses in every track. Over the course of their play time, the crowd moved from a standoffish waning crescent to a room filling waxing gibbous. The hybrid style surprised and impressed me. When it was over, I had warmed up my legs and smacked a big smile on my chin.
Connecticut foursome, Mercies, looked endearing when the tambourine began to ring, initiating the intro into their opening number. Ambient rhythm guitar blanketed rolling drums in an unsteady and beautiful crescendo that would cut off just when you needed it most for a split second, then continue and pull you swiftly back in like breakers at high tide. Reverb was high on the guitar amp, swirling out oceanic tempo drops with an alt-country twist. Every song switched easily from speeding slams of instruments to a slow, woozy trot, where the band and the crowd alike swooped their heads around like they were drunk. Mercies' charisma was intoxicating. I realized halfway through the set that my friend had been attempting to get my attention for several minutes, but I was so entranced by their magnetizing style that I hadn't even noticed.
Josh Rheault hung his upper lip on the microphone and pinched out the words through his nose, his unique voice fitting like hand in glove with trippy bass sections a la Jordan Flower. Mercies played tracks from both their first album, Questions, and their newest release, The Ballet. Messy-undercut donning drummer, Sammy Dent, looked concentrated and cheerful as he slapped out rock drums that no one could help dancing to. Later, during song-breaks, Dent switched from guitar to keyboards and back to percussion, showing off his obvious musical talent.
They attempted, at one point, to play a cover, but Kilby holds rigid restrictions on what songs you can play, so instead they played "Take You Away." Whatever the cover was, it could not have been as intricate as its replacement. While swaying around and flailing my arms like two limp noodles, I realized that the song has so many rises and falls on its way to the climax, that in more ways than one, it was like an orgasm. It becomes so chaotic near the end, it’s hard to pick out a beat, until all at once it resolves itself and ends on one last perfect, dying note.
Their final cantata, "Clouds," was blaring and resonant, submerging you once again into the watery grave where they must keep their fans. I was enthused by how easily they switched styles and were still able to keep their unique feel.
Rheault interacted with the crowd in such a way that felt personal, even though there were 80 or more people present. More than once he talked directly to audience members, asking questions and making jokes. Mercies finished their bad-ass set glistening with sweat and grinning. I hope they never skip Utah again.
The final act, Daisy & the Moonshines, swaggered into the phosphorescent Christmas lights around 10 p.m., leaving them very little time to play. Hall closed his eyes and leaned into the mic like a lover while Jared Asplund squeezed the fret-board into blending chords of caramel. I had high hopes for a local band I had heard so much about, but was never completely satisfied by the performance. While originality lacked, their ability to hype up a crowd cannot be overlooked. Beverly Smith hunkered down and thumbed out simple, sparse bass fillers. If I had been in a 21 and over space, I know a whiskey sour would have been a necessity to partner the “chugging train” quality of the performance.
After their closing composition, two seconds of raging shouts from the crowd spurred them into an encore. They had saved the best for last. Uptempo percussion from Thomas Fowler paired with a low, rasping vocal tone fit well with the power chords blasting into the bubble-eyed onlookers. Every band member bounced up and down while Hall disappeared now and then into the mob on stage right. After thanking the venue, the other bands and their fans, they exited the stage and the awkward soundtrack that always seems to be playing at Kilby resumed.
If the night hadn't been so stacked, and Daisy had played second to last, giving the closer extra time, the spirit of the evening could have been improved. That orientation would have provided a grungy break to cleanse your pallet before Mercies. Overall the show was pleasant, and left me with a ringing in my ears that I always look forward to. I just have to remember to take back some money to the ticket girl to repay her for being such a good Samaritan.
You can find a free digital copy of Daisy & the Moonshines’ new EP Moonshine on their Facebook page. Your Meteor is on Facebook as well. Mercies can also be easily found online at their website, which includes their tour calendar and a place to listen to MP3s of their new album, The Ballet.