The Sea and Cake, The Mercury, October 21 & 22

Live Shots

The Sea and Cake

The Mercury, October 21 & 22

"Hey!" blurted someone in the middle of the Sea and Cake's Saturday night set. "You know what's the secret of this band? It's the drummer!" The guy was obviously a big John McEntire fan, and on the heels of the skinsmaster's physics-defying performance, he was preaching to the converted. McEntire was a vision of intensity and focus, his gaze shifting with every subtle pull in the rhythmic matrix that fit Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt's interlocking guitar lines like a tailored glove. Behind Prekop's lazy-afternoon, velvety vocals was a kinetic force that held the normally staid indie crowd swaying ecstatically in rapture. The bounce-and-shuffle groove held court both nights at the Mercury, peaking during "The Argument," the calypso-hybrid cut off The Fawn that, on album, contains an impossibly dense web of organic and electric rhythms. McEntire took the whole task upon himself and his modest kit. After laying down an intricate shuffle over the driving thump propelling Prekop and Prewitt's considerable momentum, McEntire somehow revealed another layer to the cake, a rhythm on the cymbal he seemed to will into existence based on his tight grimace and the river of sweat pouring from his brow. It was a revelation seeing him work in a tighter setting than the often-freeform meanderings of Tortoise. Sudden thematic shifts had Prekop and Prewitt rapidly ascending scales with pleasant brushstrokes before nestling comfortably into the bubbly froth of McEntire's cymbals. Prekop's breezy lungs and kool-cat inflections conducted the elevating riffs of cuts like the propulsive "Leeoria" off The Biz. The most memorable number of both shows might've been "Escort," the chunky, Slint-y number off the same record that showed, particularly Saturday night, that the Sea and Cake can flat-out let 'er rip with the best of them. Prewitt went haywire, slamming up and down as he faced McEntire, bouncing higher and harder as the tempo got harder and heavier. This sudden Helmet-like ferocity was jarring in contrast to the tender kiss of Prekop's vocals on the softer, yet no less satisfying, numbers. Sunday's show was, not surprisingly, a shade more mellow than Saturday's, though the best numbers showed up both nights. Sunday's crowd even took the time to enjoy the Lynchian instrumental surrealism of openers Town & Country, half the crowd parked on the concrete floor, not to mention the inspired carny jazz of Austin's Golden Arm Trio, which far outweighed Saturday's lightweight set from Knife in the Water. Prekop and Co. ended the two-night run as Town & Country started it, with gentle strains fading into the night like one final caress before bedtime.

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