Shy Child + These New Puritans at Mercury Lounge

Post Author: , Karen Aragon

Fader threw a party in the middle of the week at Mercury Lounge. Nick Zinner was there. He dropped his wallet, and we found the above portraits of him inside. While Zinner still managed to make us feel better about ourselves for being famous and also choosing to brave a storm to see two rock bands play, we were kind of hoping for Mark E. Smith.

The party was British-themed in that there was enough free Bass Ale for nearly everyone to wake up with hangovers the next day, and the two bands that played would have been a slightly bigger deal, had the Ale been served at, say, Sheperds Bush Empire instead of Bowery Present’s farm-team venue.

Shy Child is Brooklyn-spawned, but has so far found its greatest appeal in the wake of New Rave acolytes and instigators The Klaxons, one of the biggest bands in the UK. Shy Child toured England with them on a series of dates that included a performance at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium in London. These New Puritans have scratched the top 200 in UK album charts, but they’re more impressive for the gallons of drool their new album was able to draw from the mouths of the British press (and a few American outlets as well).

Shy Child, Nate Smith, drawing
[Shy Child drummer Nate Smith.]

But for many who RSVP’d for Tuesday night’s event in anticipation of the gallons of English ale, it probably wasn’t a huge surprise that these two acts, at the heights of their performative powers, easily swamp a (relatively) shoe-sized venue like Mercury Lounge with their charisma and flawlessly delivered sets. Swamping a venue, I should add, is an even easier thing to do on nights when the sky is dumping humidity and rain all over New York City. While live perfection always owes a huge debt to a band’s drummer (both of whom are blessed with incredibly proficient players) there is also a recognizable symmetry between the contributions of Pete Caferella, man behind the keytar and the mic, and Jack Barnett, singer, guitarist and wearer-of-chain mail, in that neither moves or emotes much, but nonetheless generate huge auras of ruthless energy, Caferella deftly playing precision dance synth (on his thighs, sometimes over his head) and Barnett sporting eye sockets equipped with glowing coals and the guitar skills of a garage-trained virtuoso: simple parts armed with urgency and aggression.

Pete Caferella, Shy Child, drawing
[Shy Child frontman Pete Caferella.]

There was plenty that separated the two acts, and arguably, they represented the two most prominent strands of popular music the British music media has harped on for the past two years, that of post-punk by way of Gang of Four, and the aforementioned “New Rave” wave of new electro pop music typified by Simian Mobile Disco and The Klaxons. In these capacities too, the two bands were hypothetically ideal emissaries, but of course, this is all hypothetical, a would-be one-night only rock blowout in a New York terrarium, simulating London on a stormy night, sans Mark E. Smith.