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The Grates At Mercury Lounge, Friday September 4th, 2009: the new, the Andrew Sisters, a good Sheila and the Bee Gees

After Brisbane, Australia’s the Grates charming set at the Mercury Lounge Saturday night August 4th, 2009, lead singer Patience Hodgson jumps off the stage and into the stalls just as she promised she would. Patience doesn’t get far and those who greet her must have been surprised to find a budding pop star instead of being fobbed off with the normal “thanks for coming”. It is as sweet an gracious (and ebullient!) a performance as she has given all night and she doesn’t leave until closing band Tigercity hit the stage.

It was a night filled with ebullient, graceful, catching music. It was Psychics first concert together and the four piece folk jam band (two guitars, violin and singer) were a little uncomfortable but by the penultimate song of the set, “Black Summer, ” the jitters had passed and the last song had a hand picked guitar filled with promise and the structured strings arrangements were filled with promise. Pyschics need: a better band name, a drummer and more for the back up singer to do and they’re there.

They were followed by Pearl And the Beard, who are all over the place an everywhere they go it’s a pleasure to follow them. They look like, as the late Creem scribe Rick Johnson, once wrote about me, “like people you met at your most interesting luau” but they come across like three kinds of weird and wonderful. The band use pretty good three part harmonies and folkie trappings for the purpose of good time music. On a new song, “Douglas, Douglas” the two girl, one guy, group come on like the Andrew Sisters and I cn say that with no qualifiers at all. Elsewhere Emily Price is a whirlygig of sound from accordion to cello and the invitation to “let’s go dancing for the first time again” is one of those highlights even the best of sets find difficult to reach all the time.

The final band is Tigercity and I have no idea what they are doing on this bill. Any one would have a problem following the Grates (in 06 they opened) but Tigercity’s disco dance, blue eyed soul, was misplaced on this night. Their manager needs to rethink his strategy, he needs to get them onto the Apollo amateur night, he needs to get em an audition at BB Kings, he needs to get them opening slots for Hall and Oates or Average White Band. Their 2007 EP Pretend Not To Love is very AWBey and if that’s your taste it is fabulous. On stage last night it takes a coupla of songs for band and audience to find each other but by the fourth song “You’re Sensation” the lead singer bill Gillam has reached Robin Thicke if not Robin Gibbs land and “”Powerstripe” had the audience dancing. It should be on the R&B and the pop charts.

And he sure ain’t Patience Hodgson’s, already a superstar on the New york scene and with an entire world beckoning. Remember Elizabeth Shue in “Adventures In Babysitting” – Patience is like that. Imagine you’ve had a crush on your High School cheerleader and she has ignored you and you meet her at a concert and she is just everything you’d daydream about in a girl and more: high energy, sugar sweet, talkative, cheerful: just a complete up! And hotter than July… that’s Patience. Live, there isn’t an ounce of cool about her, she is completely commited to her power pop bands song and she throws herself, almost literally, head first into them. Dressed in a fake cowboy outfits (the boots aren’t real boots!) , she twirls ribbons like they’re batons in the middle of the floor, passes along high fives to the drummer, connects so well to the audience (clearing a path she says she just wanted to touch man boobs) they’re like family. The problem: much like sleeping with a guy on the first date, the mystery is lost a little too soon and after awhile less might be a little more and also she should drop the “spirits fingers” riff.

Having said that I’ve said every possible caveat imaginable. The Grates opened with high energy hits “Trampoline” and “Science Is Golden” and didn’t stop for an hour. Their first album in four years Teeth Lost, Hearts Won, produced by Peter Kallis (who has previously worked with the Nationals and Interpol and an odd choice) is being released next week and a Wednesday night residency at Pianos was recently completed, so the band seem ready to fly and fly they very well might pull it off.

Tonight they are a a blast from start to finish and on a night where even first timers Psychics were fun, the Grates brought their A game and blew Mercury Lounge away. Like we used to say back in the day, Patience Hodgson’s is a good Sheila.

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