With all the haze of Foxygen’s psychedelic rock and all the annoying repeats of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” one album alone had my heart in 2013: Mug Museum, the latest LP from Welsh songwriter Cate Le Bon. I had been crossing off days on my calendar until finally I darted down to Mercury Lounge, took a photo for opener Kevin Morby and some people who I’m half sure created him, and nudged my way as far toward the microphone as possible.
Two beers and several accidental gropings of the girls in front of me later, Bon and her band started pushing their way through the crowd (because, for those of you who have never experienced Mercury Lounge before might not know, there is no backstage). I heard one man remark “Mmm, she smells like a vanilla-scented space baby,” while another girl nodded; “God, her hair came out well.”
The show started with “No God,” one of my personal favorites on the new release. I looked around to see who else knew the lyrics and/or was able to decipher her Welsh accent; a few knew every word.
It’s a sold out show, with a number of folks clinging to newly-purchased vinyls. Bon held a competition where she gave away the mugs made during the video shoot of single “Are You With Me Now?” along with signed copies of Mug Museum on vinyl. Check the video (and mugs) out:
The crowd went nuts when she actually played “Are You With Me Now?” live. Finally, a song they knew the words to. I was surprised. She stuck mostly to tracks of Mug Museum. In fact, she played every song off the album except the one that makes me cry: “I Think I Knew.” She also threw in a few older jams of CYRK, like ” The Man I Wanted,” “Falcon Eyed” and the best encore I’ve seen in a few years: “Fold the Cloth.”
For the entire show, she was in the zone and dressed in a shiny silver dress that would surely be Bowie-approved with it’s lower-than-low back of black mesh. She still had test make-up on her left hand and it shined in the light every time it slide up the neck of her guitar that she effortlessly played. It’s no wonder. She’s practiced them all enough, considering she plays the guitar parts in every song on Mug Museum. It was hard to do anything but watch her every move – especially when she’d do this upper-lip mic drag and closed her eyes. It was just too mesmerizing. She even whipped out a recorder to spice things up.
If I could choose one word for her demeanor, it would have to be “aloof.” Definition: “Removed or distant either physically or emotionally.” Well, she was on stage. I guess that’s a distance of sorts. But, it was the thousand-yard stare that got me. Her eye-lined gaze looked all the way past everyone in the crowd, through the glass door to the bar and out of the exit onto the street.
There were, of course, more involved moments in between songs, where the silence would have killed everyone and I thank the universe she said something. During the first half of the show, we got a few adorably accented “hello” greetings. Then, we moved onto her complaining that she was the only person who didn’t receive a set-list. Somebody from the crowd shouted, “Play what you like!” and Bon replied, “I am and it’s causing the boys problems.” They way she said it couldn’t have been more genuinely cute. Later, she decided that she might want to charge everyone in the crowd a quarter per picture of her that they took.
Overall, I hope the show left everyone’s hands a little chapped from clapping. It was one of those performances that gives you and your friends way too much material to talk about at the bar on the way home. The songs took shape differently for everyone that I spoke with. I love that about Cate Le Bon. She gives your experience a role in her songs. She simply provides the emotion. On top of that, she puts on one hell of a show.
Leigh Greaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.