To be reductive for a moment: If Crystal Castles are basement dance and Crystal Stilts are basement Warhol, then Crystal Antlers are basement psych–Hendrix and the Stooges played too loud in mildewed spaces too small to contain the band’s throbbing sound. The band’s debut release, 2008’s EP, and last month’s Tentacles–the band’s debut full-length and likely the last Touch and Go release ever (sniff)–pile the wah-wah guitar and fuzz organ on heavy over manic start-stop rhythms and singer Jonny Bell’s upper-register wail.
But last night, in front of a ruggedly enthusiastic crowd at the Mercury Lounge, the Long Beach, California sextet proved again why they are undoubtedly a band to see live. Particularly the tinny, organ-heavy production on Tentacles benefited from the ferocity of the band’s live show and the Mercury’s warm acoustics. After decent but unmemorable sets by Brooklyn’s Radical Dads and Apache Beat, the Antlers took the stage and almost instantaneously managed to drench themselves in sweat. Pint-sized drummer Kevin Stuart and percussionist Damian Edwards (a/k/a Sexual Chocolate) both doffed their T-shirts, while Bell’s hair soon looked like the mop the Mercury used to soak up all the spilled Pabst later that night.
The Antlers exhausted themselves in under an hour, with no energy left for an encore. But it was hardly missed. After a jumpy start–some idiot spilled Bell’s beer at the singer’s feet before generously offering to mop up the mess with his sweater–the boys got feet stomping and arms flailing with “Andrew” and the masochistic “Several Tongues,” both from Tentacles, before ending the party with the cathartic one-two punch that finishes off EP (“Arcturus” and “Parting Song for the Torn Sky”). During the atonal freak-out of “Several Tounges,” someone from the audience (quite possibly the same idiot) threw a shot glass at Bell. Like any rock star worth his sweat, he promptly went to town with it on his bass–and to great hollers from the audience. “You could have at least thrown a shot with the shot glass,” Bell noted. Totally.