Cafe 9, June 30, 2010
Photos by Luke Dringoli
Local heroes Medication have been gaining steady traction for a group of kids who probably still get carded on the regular. The distinction between Medication's recordings and live performances is somewhat pronounced, as recordings are the exclusive product of frontman Mikey Hyde and a reverb pedal that should probably receive royalties. (I'm also fairly certain that there are 15 year olds in the UK who wish they were that good at the disaffected sneer.)
At a live show, the fidelity is palpable and the reverb takes a bit of a backseat. While some traditionalists might gripe about the lack of a bass player, the two guitars plus steady, ample percussion – the tambourine use is particularly stellar – is a winning formula for the group.
This time around, Medication went through their set without much ado – setting up and breaking down as if they were just grabbing a few beers – and by all accounts this set was a strong one, starting off with their single “Didn't Wanna Know.”
The evening's headliners were Hozac labelmates Nobunny. In Lucy O'Brien's She-Bop, there's a part where the author discusses how male guitarists have historically used the guitar as a stand-in for the phallus. A little obvious, a little Freudian, a little freshman-level women's studies, but it's an argument that's made its way through the rock-crit echo-chamber. Guitars are dicks.
Nobunny turns this notion on its head by – you guessed it – humping the guitar. (The lapsteel seemed to get the most action, the Flying V just got played.) Guitars are receptacles, they're vessels, and the performance is doused in a goofball, contrarian sexuality that's tough to pull off. All the tropes of the rock 'n' roll grotesque are there: gratuitous everything (but especially guitar solos), animal masks, and generally not knowing where one is on a Wednesday night.
The band might ride a gimmick a little hard, but a well-executed gimmick should be appreciated for its own merits and artistry. Rock and roll is an entertainment form rife with excess and self-reference. You know that scene in Altered States when William Hurt travels through the collective unconscious and re-emerges as a giant hulking ape? Nobunny does that but with rock 'n' roll, and re-emerges with a tail stuck to his briefs. If the idea of a mostly-naked grown man dressed up in a bunny mask trying to sound like Elvis doesn't resonate with you in 2010, then I....I don't know. I do hear there's this band called Vampire Weekend that's really reinventing the wheel.
For all the spectacle inherent in Nobunny's performance, he's a grower, not a shower. The set began with an unassuming lapsteel-driven country intro, and grew into a raucous, sweaty bacchanal. As the rock 'n' roll dance party on the floor gained momentum, they hit their stride. In the Nobunny cannon, the hits don't happen every track but when they do it's on 110%, possibly more.
Nobunny play with an energy that's best suited to a house show, which is basically what Cafe Nine is. The band played at least one, possibly two encores. People left with bruises, the band left with scars, and the night ended fairly triumphantly for a Wednesday in New Haven with all in attendance assured of Nobunny's love for them.