The North Atlantic took the stage at Mercury Lounge in New York City, fashioning artistically motivated guitar coils in a flurry of writhing bass throbs and turbine-charged drum punctures. Jason Hendrix’s guitar shreds were taut and sharp, and at moments glistening and coruscating as they tore across the melodic progressions. The sonic bulges of his vocals streaked across the massive furies of instrument ambits, diving, bawling, and coasting along the music scores with a fearless vaunt. Jason Richards’ bass squiggles are electrified, resonating long and slicing through the capricious movements with a voltage that gashes the melodic lines. Hendrix’s younger brother and drummer Cullen Hendrix played with an intuitive abscissa, measuring the tone of his clips and throttle speeds to correlate with the bass and guitar directional and pin all their points together.
Before the show, Cullen practiced his drumstick movements in the air and on the chairs of the venue, warming up his speed and wrist motions. His practicing paid off. The band opened with their single “Drunk Under Electrics” to an embankment of gripping guitar scurries and riveting bass and drum lockets. The melodic pillars were empowering, superseding mortal magnitudes. The chainsaw-drilling of the guitar chords and thrashing drum and bass hooks were tailor fit, slicing, chinking, and bolting into melodic lines. The growling vocals charred and cinched spokes into the songs. Each verse was revolutionary in tone, trundling corridors of chaotic downpours that move as one, smashing and bashing into each other, intertwining their wires and magnifying their height with a gladiator’s reflexes and sharp skill.
The show peaked early on with “Lotus Eater,” as the band members incited the audience to participate in the opening chorus and rapid hand clapping percussion. The lighter numbers like “Atmosphere vs. The Dogs Of Dawn,” “Scientist Girl,” and “Cities” had a heavy pounce in the rhythmic pulls and complex steps that jostle the chord effects and dynamics between kicks and empyreal spreads. Jason Hendrix put down his guitar for “Bottom Of This Town” and played the Casio synthesizer, but still sharpened the notes with a steel-scraping-against-steel sound. Jason Hendrix often sings with his eyes closed, going into himself for each song. And the band really gets into their instrumental interplay; it;s like watching a fencing match. They play their songs using their full bodies so every thrust and parry is instinctively executed.
The North Atlantic played mostly tracks from their latest album Wires In The Walls, finishing with their multi-dynamic and ravaging piece “The Ministry Of Helicopters.” They were followed by their touring mates Wax On Radio from Chicago, who opened with a country/rock episode of scintillating tambourine rattles, finely tuned acoustic guitar tremolos, and melodically bonded bass and drum tabs. Their dynamic was soft, melodically adhered and resounding with sheer radiance, although Cullen Hendrix of The North Atlantic who was sitting in on their set could detect that Sammy Del Real was having problems with his drum kit. Cullen offered Sammy his snare drum to Sammy’s delight and off Wax On Radio went with a fuller drum sound but not without Cullen’s lingering words, “You break it, you buy it.”
Cullen shared later, “I knew he was having a rough day,” so to ease Sammy up a bit, Cullen lent him an extra padding to pounce on and it was used plentiful.
On one song, Bob played the Wurlitzer and Harrison tapped on the xylophone while Sammy played roaming tribal beats along to Mike’s dream-like vocals. Wax On Radio’s pop/rock blend is pleasant and melodically filament with emphasis on staying within the framework of a melodic rock format. Their timing is magnificent but their sense for exploration is limited. It’s hard to distinguish them from many other melodic rock bands on the market. They channel the riffs that they learned through tablature and recreate it without reshaping it, although their movements are natural and genuinely performed. They are very pleasant to listen to, but may have lost many in the crowd along the way.
*Photo by Charles Shannon