all photos: Chris Svetlik
The Morning Benders have been around for some time, but last week was their coming out party. Last Tuesday, they’re much talked about (and quite good) record Big Echo hit shelves and when they arrived at The Black Cat they were riding a string of sold out shows — The Black Cat included.
But let’s start from the beginning. I didn’t know who Miniature Tigers or Acrylics were before this show. I usually glance at a Myspace page or find something on YouTube, but work caught up with me this week so I was going in with fresh ears. Acrylics hail from Brooklyn and play sunny pop music that is meant for radio play that they sadly won’t see. Their set was enjoyable, but brief. Acrylics’ songs don’t scream incredible musicianship, but man those melodies get trapped in your head for days. The definite highlight was “Molly’s Vertigo” with its catchy, memorable chorus of “I’m walking a straight line” that will burn into your brain.
When Miniature Tigers took the stage I noticed two things: one they’re lead singer had a Dharma Initiative sticker on his guitar and that they had a lap steel guitar. They get easy points with the Lost fandom, but I really enjoyed the way the subtly used the steel guitar in their music. Like the other two bands on the bill, Miniature Tigers’ music reflected a warm, summer feeling. Composed of two guitars, bass, drums and the easily recognizable Nord keyboard, Miniature Tigers were the first band I’ve seen in a while where I feel like I’ve stumbled on to something great. They provided a much needed shot in the arm to keep me awake after a few days of battling my annoying cold.
I’ll say this about The Morning Benders. They are way better live than I was expecting. There are bands that are hyped and sound great on record, but don’t cut it live (read: Girls). This was my main concern about the New York by way of Berkley band. Luckily all of my doubts were squashed after their long and drawn out opener that built to an appropriate point before transitioning into “Promises” off of Big Echo. The majority, if not all, of the set list came from Big Echo. The Morning Benders songs channel 60s and 70s chamber pop similar to Grizzly Bear and Phil Spector — especially creating the Wall of Sound Spector is noted for.
As expected The Morning Benders closed with my favorite song of 2010, “Excuses”. When I first watched the Yours Truly clip of the band with some of their friends playing that song, I knew I would not be able see that recreation live. I was wrong. Thanks to a loop pedal, the climax of the song was equally great and sent the people who were lucky enough to see it out on a great note.