Mexican Summer Five-Year Anniversary Festival, Night Two
Following my previous post on the first night of Greenpoint record label Mexican Summer‘s five-year anniversary festival in October, here is a concluding report on the second half of the fest. It took place at Pioneer Works in Red Hook on Saturday, October 12th, from afternoon well into the night. I regrettably missed early performers Soldiers of Fortune, Weyes Blood, Quilt, and Linda Perhacs – regrets made much worse by hearing the room still buzzing about the latter as I arrived. Our photographer Gus Ponce said Linda Perhacs’ music reminded him of psychedelic church hymns (and luckily captured a great photo, below). Another friend in the crowd later speculated, “I wonder what you dream about, Linda Perhacs.” Mexican Summer reissued Perhacs’ absolutely gorgeous 1970 album Parallelograms, more info here.
Happy Jawbone Family Band took the stage around 8pm and did a pretty good job helping me move on. The Brattleboro, VT-based band opened with the jangly single “Everybody Knows About Daddy” from their new self-titled album. Frontman Luke Csehak encouraged everyone to “move around a little bit!” and led by example, jumping all over the stage himself. The set continued with more easy to love garage-pop-tinged songs from their new release, including “I Have To Speak With Rocky Balboa,” “Mr. Clean,” “I’ll Never Go Skin Deep Again,” and “D.R.E.A.M.I.N.'” Happy Jawbone’s performance was quick, snappy, and touched with a country grit that I really appreciated. They were fun to watch, too.
Lilacs & Champagne came next, filling our ears with dark instrumental jams. Gloomy, meandering synths paired with spacey horror graphics, giving out the perfect pre-Halloween spooks. I later realized that the awesomely creepy footage played onstage probably included the band’s weird-out video for “Everywhere, Everyone“, as I noted similar vignettes like “guy behind bars!”, and “so many dark moons.” I’m playing this stuff at next year’s Halloween party for sure.
A bit before 10pm, Co La (aka Matt Papich of Ecstatic Sunshine) graced the stage alongside an imaginary friend in a neon windbreaker. I was instantly charmed, even more so when the cough-syrup R&B meltdowns began. It’s a particular wheelhouse I can never resist – fans of Cyril Hahn, How To Dress Well, CFCF, and Pikcha, you know what I’m talking about. A self-promoter like the best of ’em, Co La had engineered repeating auditory logo (“CO LA / CO LA / CO LA”) in one song a la Maybach Music. Combined with a George Costanza-esque leave-behind, I was humming it for the rest of the night.
The next stage change saw Lansing-Dreiden step up with their dynamic double guitars, which remained expertly knit together for a really tight performance. “Metal on a Gun” and “Glass Corridor” were highlights. Both had an impassioned, gripping vocal texture that set my mind adrift towards Polaris, the 90s greats who performed the theme song to The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Lansing-Dreiden had a similar earnest appeal. Their set wrapped with an Ariel Pink guest spot (he headlined the night before), undoubtedly a treat for all.
The performance that followed stole the show and ran away with it: New Zealand’s Connan Mockasin (both a man and a band!) making his/their U.S. debut as part of the festival. It was a well-timed appearance promoting Caramel, their new album out on Mexican Summer this week (currently streaming in full at Fader). Connan the man was a sight to behold. When he came onstage my jaw dropped at the white-robed, towheaded guru standing before me. He visually channeled the gamut of bleached blonde icons, from lion tamer Siegfried Fischbacher, to Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty in Blade Runner, to Viserys Targaryen of HBO’s Game of Thrones, to Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. Connan made my mind race with his arresting, singular presence, holding something in common with all of these figures but standing one thousand percent on his own. This guy was BOLD, head to toe; I didn’t look away once.
And the music. It was immaculately crafted to complement his velvet singing – beautiful slide guitar, a little quiet to start, both glazed and hazy. Connan proved himself to be kind and humble, supremely grateful to Mexican Summer. He excitedly toasted the label on their first five years with “Happy Birthday.” The songs that followed oozed with the most captivating joy and weirdness I’ve heard in years. “I’m The Man, That Will Find You” had me grinning at its unabashed funk, and an older piece called “Forever Dolphin Love” went on instant repeat for me as soon as I got home, via its incredible music video. The Ariel Pink comparisons are rampant, and the sense of humor and oddball confidence are definitely shared, but I’m really at a loss to find anything existing in our musical landscape that sounds quite like Connan Mockasin. Give this exceptional artist a listen sooner rather than later.
The ladies (and gentleman) of No Joy had their turn just after midnight, saturating the air with heavy whipping guitar and vocals and spitting out some absolute thrashers. The noise was so compact and solid that the floor rattled for their whole set. They played fast and tight and for not long enough! I couldn’t identify a single song because of how thick it all sounded, but that didn’t take away from the set. So much talent emanated from their rip-roaring loudness.
At long last around 1:30am, Spiritualized, the last of the seventeen players on this mind-boggingly diverse two-day roster, ascended the stage for their headlining set. Audience energy levels were drooping this late in the night, but most folks genuinely perked up as the music of these legendary space rockers began. Hugging the wall for support, I lasted for three excellent songs, including “Hey Jane,” the lead single from the band’s most recent album in 2012. I was hoping to hear the gorgeous 1997 classic “Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space,” but I harbored no disappointment as I bowed out. Just to witness Spiritualized and their timelessness for a few moments was pleasure enough, and a fitting end to the best label-thrown festival I’ve ever attended.
Mexican Summer, you nailed it. See you again in five years.