Concert season has begun. The annual SxSW groundswell has spewed the remains of every van-wrapped band from Berkeley to Brooklyn all across the country, and Denver is playing host to a whole herd of them. It’s a great time to be a fan of underground music; the clubs are jammed nightly with unique touring combos, and given the recent trend toward grunge revivalism, they’re starting to get loud.
Such is the case for Cymbals Eat Guitars, a Brooklyn-based quartet that draws influences from a range of iconic alternative groups as sweeping and diverse as its debut record, Why There Are Mountains. Equal parts grit and grace, the album soars on the wings of singer Joseph “Ferocious” D’Agostino. If you made Stephen Malkmus take vocal lessons from Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, he might manage to find D’Agostino’s timbre.
On April 1st, the band took residency at South Broadway’s infamous Hi-Dive in front of a sold out crowd. The opening chords and mountainous chanting of “And the Hazy Sea” leapfrogged any sonic bar that might have been set by the openers and had the crowd of otherwise stodgy hipsters pumping fists and singing along instantaneously. Channeling Pavement more than Built to Spill onstage, the band mellowed only so much as to let D’Agostino’s pipes play first fiddle. And while the results were favorable, the band did start to lose its luster a little after the halfway point of the set, perhaps because they came so aggressively out of the gates and let the set lag a little, or perhaps because the already eventful evening full of a little too much PBR had the crowd starting to unravel ever so slightly.
The verdict? Cymbals Eat Guitars released one of the better rock records of 2009, and while the live show is no slouch, it’s also not quite as intriguing a ride as Why There Are Mountains itself. Of course, it was loud, and it was fun, so there’s not a whole lot of room to complain here.