The Family Crest Hit It Big with the Post-Millennials
Due diligence is a bitch. This is what happens when you don’t reread your own music blog.
Publicist sends an email. Hey, wanna go see somebody open for a band whose name sounds vaguely familiar?
[Something] the Ghost? Umm, maybe Fever the Ghost? Why the hell not. Kind of glammy, post-Bowie, psychedelic, lots of keys! Forget that the bandname is stupid and signifies trendoid-ness. Reviewed ’em last year, last August or so if memory serves right.
Check the blog index to make sure? Naaaaaa, no time for that….
Opening band hits at 9:20 – publicist wasn’t lying, They’re moving things right along at Bowery Ballroom. And this show is sold out. Lots of kids. Children, that is. Middleschoolers, from the looks of them. None of them have ever been here before. Nobody’s drinking and nobody’s smoking pot either. They’re all looking up, looking around. Yet there’s not a selfie stick in sight.
The Family Crest make their entrance, and the kids go nuts. It’s date night, lots of screaming girls. This could turn out to be a very short evening.
The band has a cello, a violin and a trombone. And the kids are into it! Frontman Liam McCormick wails on his acoustic guitar, keyboardist Laura Bergmann switches to flute and fires off an darkly slinky series of flourishes while the string section play similarly elegant variations on a baroque-rock riff. The song, Beneath the Brine, is kind of World Inferno Junior, third-gen circus rock. It doesn’t have the New York band”s old-world irony or gleefully grim punk rock humor, but it’s good, and McCormick’s stagy cabaret delivery works in this context. And the kids love it! Whadda you know, slyly grinning chamber pop with a carnivalesque edge is big with post-millennials! There’s hope for the world!
The rest of the show doesn’t hit as high as this, but it’s not bad either. The band takes a turn back toward the phantasmagorical later on, but that number evokes a stadium more than a dark carnival. Instead, there’s a lot of Motown and new wave in the songs’ bouncy drive, and infectious energy, and relentlessly cheery hooks. The band are all good musicians and they’re a magnet for others: by the time all the special guests are onstage, there are two trombonists, two saxophonists and an electric guitarist taking an already hefty sound further skyward. Lyrics or storytelling don’t seem to be the band’s thing, but singalong catchiness is. One of the last numbers in the set – which clocked in at barely forty minutes, hardly fair – evokes the surreal post-new wave stomp of Aussie hitmakers the Cat Empire.
The band are as fresh-faced and friendly as their material. McCormick in particular turns out to be a big hit with the females – and he’s not exactly svelte. If that’s what the chicks are into these days, it’s enough to tempt a guy to quit running all over town, switch out the chana saag and ice water for pizza and PBR and pack on the pounds.
Fever the Ghost headline. Except that it’s not Fever the Ghost. It’s [Something Else] the Ghost. You’d think that one of those bands might sense the need for rebranding, but no. This trio also has a lot of busy keys, but in a way that’s part Liberace, part Mars Volta, maybe. Or Styx. Remember Styx? That top 40 band from the 70s? Not worth googling. Please. Don’t.
Both the keyboardist and guitarist have chops, but the guitarist sings in a mannered, phony-earnest emo-pop voice. They’re the kind of band who might lobby for a discount on student loan debt, but wouldn’t dare demand a return to the days of free tuition. And the drummer looks like a reject from the casting call for Almost Famous. Is this what closeted born-agains sound like? Theatreboys from Utah? Three songs in, it’s clear that this group ought to be calling themselves Leave the Room. And the kids are still there, still bopping. A couple of freshman fratboys, who may be more than just bro’s, get drunk on a single beer and start pumping their fists along with the guitarist’s fey uh-OH-oh’s Maybe there’s less hope than there seemed to be when the Family Crest hit the stage.