Real McCoys deliver emotion and volume at Thirsty Pagan

Submitted Review By Eric Meyer After an eight-hour opera rehearsal in early March, I was thirsting to try some micro brews and rinse the Puccini out of my head. My fiancé and I walked into Thirsty Pagan Brewery with high hopes for some good music and great beer. The place wasn’t packed, but there were a few people at each table. My girl and I squeezed onto a couple of bar stools and some residual beer soaked into my notebook. The night’s events were expectedly a little behind schedule, and first of all we would be ‘treated’ to a previous band’s side project—never got their name, maybe they weren’t ready for the notoriety of being able to be called something. “Los tres rockeros” were tight enough on their simplistic set list of original “alternative rock” tracks, but close amps turned higher than they should have resulted in a complete loss of any texture in the music.

The band’s prioritizing of the guitar and bass covered up not only the band’s vocals but all conversation in the venue. The look on other patrons’ faces proved I wasn’t the only person in aural discomfort. The lead singer seemed the self conscious type; he kept his eyes closed most of the set. His black hair swooped over one eye and tight jeans were meticulously cuffed to two inches, indicative of his indie roots. At times the bassist seemed to be living out his rock n’ roll fantasies on stage, head banging and thrashing about more violently than the simple chord progressions allowed. Perhaps it was merely a futile attempt to involve the audience; the lead singer wasn’t giving the crowd much attention. Finally the set concluded with a section of music that had the band stinging repeated staccato chords so many times that they seemed as bored as the audience and obliged to finally finish the song.

I finished my pint, disappointed in its warmth, blandness and price. I thought I’d roll the dice again and I ordered a black ale as The Real McCoys were setting up. While waiting for the three-piece to take the stage I scanned the room; Fitger’s tack adorned the wall, and the ‘stage’ was really just an area of the room without tables; an eight-foot square wooden platform raised the drummer up a few inches. Behind the performance area was an open doorway to a different part of the bar where disinterested regulars occasionally glanced at the bands backside.

When The Real McCoys started playing I traveled back to the late 90s. Their three-piece instrumentation of guitar, bass, drumset and basic power-chord progressions harkened back to the days of Weezer, Silverchair and Marvelous 3. Thankfully they broke the mundane with some measured use of an accordion in one song, and some interesting phaser effects on the guitar in a few others. The fact that the band knew their alternative rock songs so well hinted at a different problem. They weren’t stretching themselves far enough musically; it is too easy to fall into the three-piece trap and sound like countless others with generic songwriting and repetitive riff structures. Predictable music can be good for dancing but it bores the audience, especially when the vocals are inaudible.

No lyrics were heard in the Thirsty Pagan last Saturday. Guitar and bass amps were forced to compensate for the drums’ overwhelming volume, and again the vocals were deemed least important. Though the clarity of the vocals left much to be desired, lead singer Chris sang with emotion and energy--a delivery that clearly demonstrated the meaning of the songs to the band.

Overall The Real McCoys were a standard indie rock offering with a lot of room for growth, a band I would like to hear a lot more of at less volume. The acoustics of the venue made it easier to hear the band with ears plugged and rendered sign language a necessity for bar patrons.  Quote of the night—“How much is a pitcher of beer?” “$11.50.” “You’re tipsy?” The simple task of balancing instrumentation with vocals would have improved the experience ten-fold, but at least the ringing in my ears drowned out Puccini.

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