Florida band Merchandise have started to gain quite a reputation for exhilarating live sets, and their growing popularity now sees them gracing well respected music venues the breadth of Europe. Gone are the days of small pub sets, and their change in genre from punk to an indie-pop formula has certainly seen them acquire fans from a much wider audience.
A new record label (4AD) further quantifies the bands ascendancy and when coupled with a back catalog of unapologetic guitar laced ‘wall of noise’ material it’s clear to see why this current European tour, and in particular their London date, would prove to be so important to their continued charge. The venue (The Laundry, E8) was certainly testament to a growing popularity … an opportunity for 100’s to cheer on our American visitors, rather than the smaller crowds they entertained the last time they came to visit.
And so, as the very impressive support band ‘Shopping’ left the stage (if you’ve not heard ‘In Other Words’ yet then do it right now) you could feel an air of excitement hanging over the expectant audience. The scene was set for what potentially could be a real humdinger. So, what went wrong?
From the first second of the very first number you realised that the sound was not right. In fact, that’s being way too polite. The sound was awful. It was almost as though you were back listening to the band in one of the aforementioned pubs. There was clearly an issue and you then immediately began to notice various people running about cupping an ear and indulging in deep conversations while shaking their heads.
And then there was the feedback. Not the deliberate type of feedback you mischievously smile at, as it shakes your entire body from top to bottom, but the accidental kind that seemed to appear at random intervals throughout the set. Even more of a concern was that the vocals of lead singer Carson Cox were at times inaudible, much to the annoyance of many around me. Audience members flitted from one side of the venue to the other, then from the back of the room to the front, just in case they had been stood in a dull spot. Unfortunately the results were the same wherever you lingered. It was frustrating to the point of being outright annoying.
The band continued and did what they do best … they entertained. Their current and back catalogues are strong enough to survive hiccups such as this but it most certainly took the gloss off of what could have been a great gig. ‘Green Lady’ and ‘Telephone’ from the latest album ‘After the End’ impressed and seemed to escape most of the irritating lapses in sound. ‘Little Killer’ and ‘True Monument’ were not so fortunate. Fan favourite ‘Anxiety’s Door’ certainly stood out but again it was hindered by the poor acoustics.
It’s difficult to know who to point the finger at with regards to the sound issues. Certainly the band seemed un-affected by the issues and a thumbs up should be given for their professionalism in continuing with the set. However, I’m so disappointed that my first experience of this band live will live with me for the wrong reasons.
Merchandise will no doubt continue to grow, and rightfully so. They are a talented group of guys who clearly enjoy the musical circus. There was certainly no permanent damage from last night’s outing as most there could see the band giving there all, in difficult circumstances . Part of me wishes I was in Bristol tomorrow night to see exactly how it should be done though.