NXNE Day 4: Quiet Company, Mikal Cronin, The Sphinx’s

Quiet Company

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It’s amazing what a chance meeting can bring.

During the Audio Blood/Pledge Music Backlot Party there were many chance meetings but none as powerful as the men from Quiet Company. Described as Austin, Texas’ only rock band, this seemingly inflated speech may not be too far from the truth.

The theys of the world constantly say everything is bigger in Texas. And while that sounds hyperbolic, it certainly has all the grains of truth when talking about this particular group. Quiet Company took to one of the smallest stages at NXNE, Rancho Relaxo, and rocked out bigger than anyone could have imagined.

Their melodic and reverent rock features beautiful hooks and vocal harmonies backed by emphatic movements and azure-eyed gazes. With an arsenal of instruments, this group brings an amazing measure of diversity to their set with melodica, trombone, keyboard and the standard guitar, bass, drums. A lot of bands trot these items out on stage, few utilize them as well.

With six men on stage at once, it would be easy for their sound to become jumbled but they’ve written songs whose clarity comes paramount. They played a bunch of music and not once did the group falter in front of a packed and dancing house. That’s one of the more important parts too – none of the songs blended together or dragged on for longer than necessary, they’ve mastered the artful exit.

This band is another must-see, not only are they incredibly tight and captivating on stage, their melodies and harmonies will resound to the deepest reaches of even the blackest heart.

Mikal Cronin

Bandcamp
Merge Records

Where Quiet Company was defined and specific, Mikal Cronin threw a bunch of noise at an audience in a seeming attempt to make it stick. The Silver Dollar is known for blaring decibels perhaps too loud and it didn’t do the noise-rocker any favours.

Mikal Cronin could easily be considered this year’s official NXNE hype band, a title that generally doesn’t work favours from critics. His band packed three shows at The Dollar and this punk-rock for grown-ups had the audiences jumping, even crowd-surfing.

It was an exciting spectacle to see so many 20 and 30 somethings losing inhibitions and many of them without alcohol. The only downfall is that the music and stage-presence should have been better for such a wildly anticipated band.

It seemed as though the band was going through the motions aside from a few placid movements throughout the set. While this music isn’t too bad on record, the quality dove at the live show. Summarized, this band sounds like Evan Dando hooked up with Wavves and wrote some songs with more distortion and less interesting everything.  There’s definitely something going on with Mikal Cronin, he has talent but for those wishing another Ty Segall, development and refinement needs to happen first.

Also, Woah on the Oooohs.

The Sphinx’s

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After Cronin and company’s ear-splitting surf reveries, the Sphinx’s took the stage to continue the trend of loud music blasted at volumes the Canadian Medical Association would probably denounce.  The Sphinx’s have been playing for a few years and have a reputation for pulling some great songs out of their collective minds.  Their ability to pack seven members on a tight stage is fairly impressive, especially considering their were no poked eyes or bloodied faces.

There is a ton of talent (probably a literal number) in this band and while the wall of 3 guitars is, at times, too much middle, they have a few songs with staying power and a generally solid set.  Once again, with the Silver Dollar it’s difficult to really get a feel for the music playing because it just comes out of the speakers so distorted.  In this regard, the band’s songs were lost in the mix but part of the problem is definitely their wall of sound, there’s too much going on to appreciate the finer elements of their songwriting.

While their sound wasn’t the greatest, they brought a show.  Front-woman Sian Teuse commands the stage with her burlesque smile and come-hither eyes.  Bassmeister Dave Tyson and stage-left guitarist Joel French looked absolutely unhinged and frantic while gazing upon a bouncing crowd.  This off-kilter attitude is part of what makes a Sphinx’s show sexy dangerous, there are so many members that one of them is doing something weird at any given time.

Having fun on stage is paramount for any band to connect with an audience and this is one group that practically mind-melds its audience.  With the overbearing sound system it’s difficult to stay positive while reviewing any band but this is one that managed to rise above a hugely detrimental aspect of their show.  This band obviously has a ridiculous amount of talent and if they can manage to focus and direct their abilities to refine their songs and improve their slightly loose live show, it won’t be long before a Google search actually gives results to this band instead of some ancient monument in Egypt.

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