Pela @ Mercury Lounge
If I had the power to selfishly freeze a band in time, I would choose Pela. By doing this, I may be accused of halting a promising band’s inevitable rise to worldwide fame and accompanying fortune, but I could guarantee myself admission to an endless supply of shows like the one last night at Mercury Lounge. And that would make me happy.
While Pela is an established Brooklyn-based band, having headlined shows at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg, they played a set last night as part of the CMJ Music Marathon, a 5-day concert fest spread all over NYC. My impression of CMJ is that it is a very business oriented event, showcasing new artists in a jam-packed schedule of shows, some as early as noon, others starting after midnight. I’m not exactly sure why Pela was included in this group since they are more seasoned performers, but they played their CMJ set no differently than any other show I’ve seen them play.
The Thursday night Mercury Lounge lineup featured a new band on the hour, every hour and began at 7pm. When we showed up at 10pm, The Muslims were taking the stage. We were slightly concerned when their set ended at 10:15. Huh? I was glad we hadn’t come just to see them, but I also hoped that Pela’s set would not be that short. The next band, Frances, played some catchy stuff, but nothing really jumped out at me. So when Pela took the stage they put a quick end to amateur night. Feeling slightly apologetic about the 45-minute allotted set time, lead singer Billy McCarthy announced they “had a reputation to uphold” and would make the show worth our while. And that’s exactly what they did. After sitting (or maybe I should say slumping on a bench, half-asleep) through the other bands, sound checks, and equipment changes, Pela had me immediately on my feet and very happy to be there.
Pela’s songs are all rock, with heart-pounding drum beats, inspired guitar riffs and impassioned vocals. My favorites include ‘Tenement Teeth,’ ‘Waiting on the Stairs’ and ‘Song Writes Itself.’ Sometimes I wonder if bands get sick of playing the same songs night after night, but I get the feeling that the members of Pela really like their songs, and really, really like playing music. And it’s infectious. Both McCarthy and bassist Eric Sanderson jump excitedly around the stage and work up a good sweat. McCarthy has a habit of going to the extremes–whether he’s hopping onto amplifiers to stand tall above drummer, Tomislav Zovich, or practically laying down on the stage while still playing his guitar. I am happy to report there were no injuries at last night’s performance, save a broken string on McCarthy’s guitar. After suffering both hand and foot injuries during shows in the past year alone, McCarthy appeared healthy and unaffected by the physical setbacks he has faced.
I first heard about Pela last year when my brother sent me a Rolling Stone article, in which they were described as an upcoming band to watch. Right now they still appear to be accessible, friendly guys, playing small venues to appreciative crowds, having a good time on stage, and basking in their love of rock and roll. Pela is right where I want them, and if I had my way, that’s where I’d like them to stay.
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Tags: cmj, mercury lounge, pela