Earlymay

by Devon Powers

14 July 2004

 

The Killers have left the building. And yes, it does feel as if someone—Dick Clark, Kasey Kasem, Ed Sullivan—should be present here, to deliver the somber news with that grave, stilted, ‘50s-esque announcer voice. The floor is a sticky mess; girls are in tears; the line that snaked toward the Mercury Lounge’s entrance from down the block has finally been dismantled. The Killers—hope, hype, and all—have departed.

Earlymay

23 Jun 2004: Mercury Lounge — New York

And Earlymay are still here, located awkwardly as the night’s denouement. They very well may be playing one of the most difficult bill slots I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of show going. Not that the Killers were beyond reproach—having seen the Las Vegas foursome play before, they were capable of much more confidence, much more precision. But the expectation—not to mention a fair number of the people—is gone. What’s remains? What does it mean when an event ends, and you’re left to knock out a plain old rock show?

It’s a testament to the resolve and determination of Earlymay, then, that they not only sallied proudly into their set, but carried it off with determination, grace, and gumption. Moreover, in the wake of the Killers—who, for better or worse, have more doctored-up artifice than you can shake a stick at—Earlymay were refreshingly earnest, playing their emotionally rich music with a passionate, honest engine relentlessly driving it forward. Tonight they were the underdog, but for those who stayed, they demonstrated that they’re not interested in playing the same old game. There were no tricks, no gimmicks, no fancy outfits, and no airs. Just purity, heart, electricity, dedication, and warmth.

Of course, I’m being somewhat unfair to paint the event like this. Rather than playing to an empty room peopled just with their girlfriends, family members and yours truly, Earlymay drew an ample crowd, pockets of whom were clearly regular followers. Their music—which might shorthandedly be described as emo, but replaces the self-deprecation and adolescence with cheerfulness and maturity—incited in their audience manifold reactions, listeners caught somewhere between reverential stillness, peaceful swaying, and balls-out rocking. Indeed, their music incites all three reactions at once. Bradley Peterson, lead vocalist and guitarist, sings with a grainy tenor, simultaneously calm and agitating. Bassist Scott Peterson’s backing vocals are lighter and sweeter, like adding sugar and cream to coffee. The ragged, loud music which emanates from the guitars, bass, and kit counterbalance this but also form its kinetic center, centrifugally churning the momentum outward.

In anticipation of their forthcoming EP Little Answers, Earlymay peppered their live show with new material. And their gracious stage banter proved as well that their unaffectedness isn’t simply on a musical level. They thanked their fans for waiting, gave concise insights into songs before they played them, and had an ease on stage that rivaled that of much more seasoned acts. Without the mountains of expectancy, Earlymay had only themselves to impress, and in the process managed to impress all of us.

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