Suckers w/Devin, Writer
Saturday, February 4
Better than: Shoving people over to grab a seat on the L on a Saturday night.
Before Suckers took the Knitting Factory stage on Saturday, the audience segregated itself, seemingly by age. The youth enjoyed the opening acts, using the between-set breaks to sit on the floor; older concert-goers looked on from the back, bobbing their heads to the tunes and glancing around to see if anyone was watching them have a little fun. But when Suckers came on, old and young came together, screaming out the lyrics to the band’s melancholic but uplifting sing-a-longs in unison.
Suckers is a four-person free-for-all of sound with members Quinn Walker (lead vocals/guitar), Austin Fisher (vocals/guitar), Pan (bass/trumpet) and Brian Aiken (percussion, although Saturday’s show was his last); their debut full-length came out in 2010, and they’ve just finished recording their second album. “Roman Candles,” off the band’s debut Wild Smile, started the night off with blaring drums and a whistle; Walker, in a voice that brought to mind Jeff Mangum’s, belted out the repeated chorus of a confused romantic (“Roman candles and empty liquor handles/ and a way with words that pulled you through”) and mused on the transparency of love (“I know you knew him/ The way you looked right through him”).
From there, the band whirled into the slower “You Can Keep Me Runnin’ Around,” where Walker showed off his falsetto, Aiken ferociously slammed on the drums and Fisher kept it all together with a spindly riff in the background to keep it all together. The band showed off its chops on “Martha,” a bluegrass-y ensemble with Walker crooning over one-named Pan’s trumpet; “A Mind I Knew,” a morbid ballad that devastatingly accuses a lover of having “a heart like a crippled demon/ semen on your clothes;” and “It Gets Your Body Moving,” which could be sung at a bar alongside miserable drinkers and pints of Brooklyn Lager.
Much of the night was given over to fresh material, which is something of a risk—the possibility of losing their crowd’s attention with too many of them always lurks. But Walker’s style of singing makes his performance absolutely compelling. As his eyeliner dripped down his cheek, he spoke about past trials and tribulations in a way reminiscent of postmodern fallouts like Blind Melon and Neutral Milk Hotel, the downtimes given just enough hippie flair to make the experience of shared pain something joyous.
Critical bias: I’ve got a thing for bands with brass.
Overheard: “Don’t get me a beer; I don’t like them and they’re hard to hold at shows like this.”
Random notebook dump: During the opening acts (Writer, two Californian brothers with a wonderful knack for tambourines and harmony, and Devin, a trio that brought to mind early White Stripes) I was at the bar, where my view was continuously obstructed by this taller, larger man sporting a strange semi-poncho and holding a conversation with his nearby lady friend. When Suckers came on, I saw him again—it was Quinn Walker, the frontman. Oops.