There’s no two ways about it: the Mod-Goth kids are coming. Upon entering the Annandale, one was met with a sea of similarly adorned, black-clad folks whose overuse of hairspray should be cause for serious environmental concern (if there’s a more emo way to spread greenhouse gases, I can’t imagine it). The Mercy Arms were already dropping up their special brand of gloom-rock when we arrived, and the Mod-Goths (or Moths, as I like to call them) were positively lapping it up.
This was the second time that I’ve seen the Mercy Arms in the support slot, and the second time I’ve been hugely impressed. Their music is pregnant with the kind of menace Interpol would be proud to call their own—if only Interpol still made menace-pregnant music instead of paint-by-numbers radio fodder. The guitarist had even dispensed with the pink-chicken jumper (yikes!) he wore when the group supported the Pixies, so it really was smiles (or frowns) all around. Although I have yet to hear their recorded output, there’s no question that the Mercy Arms are a live act to be reckoned with.
The Horrors + The Mercy Arms
6 Aug 2007: The Annandale Sydney, Australia
I was going to describe the Horrors as “Birthday Party-era Nick Cave fronting the Ramones” until I checked Wikipedia and found that some clever bastard had already pegged them as “a hybrid of the Birthday Party and the Cramps”. Of course, the bloody Cramps! With all that psych-organ, how could I ever think the Ramones?
Much to the delight of the Mod-Goth contingent, the Horrors take the business of being, well, horrors quite seriously. Between taking stabs at his combo organ, keyboardist Spider Webb crouched down behind his instrument, allowing only his heavily made-up eyes to peer spookily out into the crowd. At other times, he draped a lace scarf over his face as he made silent-movie gestures—miming like some kind of modern-day Lillian Gish. Farris Rotter took to the stage like a lunatic, brandishing a broken chair leg at the audience. For a moment, I thought things were going to go all GG Allin (now that’d be something really scary), but, as we live in incredibly safe times, no one got hit. Of course, a clock did get ripped from the wall, broken into pieces, and thrown into the audience. Gimme danger… if just a little.
For his part, Farris delivered yelped and growled vocals over the band’s jittery, staccato scratchings. He also denigrated his own music, screaming, “Oh bloody hell, I hate this one” as the band lurched into their cover of Screaming Lord Sutch’s ode to “Jack the Ripper”.
Farris also did a great deal of crowd surfing, frequently wading through the audience as he sang. It was his way of making good with the audience, or rather, fulfilling their desire for some serious band-on-fan interaction (it’s a lonely world after all). This back-and-forth body play reached its apex when he literally walked off the stage and onto the crowd, managing to stay upright for a surprising length of time. He floated towards the other end of the room—a nightmare vision gliding and tottering over a human sea, slouching towards the barstools in the back.
The whole frantic bloody mess collapsed after about forty-five minutes, and despite repeated calls and endless screaming, the band never reappeared. The crowd didn’t leave until the roadies had pulled apart every last instrument. Of course, by their very nature Moths are contradictory creatures, and they probably would have been vastly disappointed if their heroes had been concerned enough to bother with an encore.
As it was, they headed out into the foyer to join the other punters already snapping up t-shirts that read, simply, “I am a horror.”