Pop-Break Live: Bright Light Social Hour (Mercury Lounge)

Words and Photos by Chris Osifchin

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Bright Light Social Hour at The Mercury Lounge in New York City with The Midnight Hollow

Can I get a hell yeah?!

As singer and bassist Jack O’Brien repeated the phrase throughout the night, this became the mantra of the Mercury Lounge as The Bright Light Social Hour celebrated the upcoming release of their new album Space Is Still The Place. And celebrate they did.

tblsh drum

Brooklyn band The Midnight Hollow opened the show with a unique brand of psych pop, blending dance music and psychedelia into a towering thunder of sound as they built layer upon layer. An entrancing bass line, chiming, lavish guitar, hypnotizing synths and a polyrhythmic percussion section combined to create what the band’s Facebook page accurately describes as “concrete jungle rock.” Frontman Spencer Draeger showed some seriously impressive vocal range during the set, sounding a bit like a Frankenstein incarnation of David Byrne and Morrissey. Draeger ended the set by dedicating their last song to The Bright Light Social Hour.

TBLSH took the stage to a feeling of palpable excitement in the 197 capacity lounge after a superb performance by The Midnight Hollow. O’Brien kicked things off mentioning how happy the band was to be playing in New York. After letting the crowd settle in, O’Brien got on the mic to a massive outburst from the crowd, “Tonight is a night to celebrate, and we’re gonna celebrate the shit out of this shit, man!” With that, TBLSH launched into their set with the first track off Space Is Still The Place, “Sweet Madelene.”

I was excited to hear TBLSH’s distinct brand of rock and dance, what the band calls “Future South,” after reviewing Space Is Still The Place, but I severely underestimated just how danceable this band really is. The pulsing bass and synth work throughout the show from O’Brien and multi-instrumentalist Edward Braillif had the capacity crowd dancing their asses off, particularly on “Dreamlove” and closer “Escape Velocity.” O’Brien and drummer Joseph Mirasole were locked into their grooves. Something I never expected to see at a rock concert was some seriously intense grinding. A few couples in the front row were absolutely shaking it to “Escape Velocity.” As O’Brien remarked late in the set “There’s a lot of love in this room right now.”

Three quarters of the way through their set, which spanned the entirety of Space and a few tracks from their first album, the slow burning blues of “Ouroboros” was the best song of the night. Have you ever poured gasoline on a fire? That’s what it felt like after the band broke through first verse. An audible wave of energy erupted from the stage, like a heat wave bursting from an open door in a burning building. The last two lines in the song, “Take our tails from our mouths/Flood the roads in the South,” coupled with the jam, serve as a symbol for obliterating the old South, a theme the band has been pushing, and ushering in The Bright Light Social Hour’s vision of “Future South.” The tune ended with a frenetic jam, “Whole Lotta Love” style, triumphantly destroying the bluesy sound with which they started.

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From there, the show only picked up steam as the band finished up the set with the remaining three tracks from Space Is Still The Place. They left the stage, only to return moments later as O’Brien told the audience, “I don’t need too much convincing. I’ll play all night. These other guys though…”

Turns out they didn’t need much convincing either, because as he was finishing that sentence the rest of the band returned to the stage for their final song, “Garden of the Gods,” off their self-titled debut, a song that perfectly captured the essence of the band’s Southern soul. The extended closing jam echoed the spirit of the Allman Brothers Band and left the audience excited, as they let out a loud roar and watched the lights come up on Houston Street.

Can I get a hell yeah?!

Bright Light Social Hour Setlist:

Sweet Madelene
Slipstream
Dreamlove
Ghost Dance
Shanty
Detroit
Sea of the Edge
Aperture
Ouroboros
Infinite Cities
Back and Forth
The Moon
Escape Velocity
(Encore) Garden of the Gods

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Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.