with Sean Na Na and the Mercury Program
The Covered Dish, Gainesville, FL • May 7, 1999
Nathan T. Birk
Where they all came from, I’ll never know, but the night’s show drew a slew of indie-rock kids out of Gainesville’s woodwork, proving to be a less-than-inspiring event any way you cut it.
The Mercury Program was up first, odd considering the trio would be the only thing resembling a highlight. During its six-song set, the Mercury Program locked down immensely repetitive, bass-driven grooves, offering subtle syncopation to tinker with the trance it weaved; despite a cursory resemblance to June of 44, math rock this was not. A darkly ominous mood permeated the band’s set, but the guitarist’s sparse vocals — something of a speak-sing that lacked the plaintive flair to make them work effectively — did little to punctuate this mood. Nonetheless, that near-fatal flaw didn’t deter the band from doing the whole post-Hoover thing well enough to succeed.
Suck-cess, however, was relevant to Sean Na Na, who was second on the bill. An ignoramus would state that Sean Na Na was doing something “different,” being that the trio consisted of acoustic guitar, drums, and organ. But cut through all the bullshit, and you merely find a cloyingly “sensitive guy next door” pop band, unassuming and uninspiring. Some prankster (probably the band’s friend) threw a few empty water bottles at them during their second song, but maybe he should’ve thrown unopened malt liquor quarts instead — oh, and he should’ve hit them, too.
The night’s highly anticipated darlings, Rainer Maria, were up last. Enthusiastic performance or not, Rainer Maria provided textbook evidence of the sad state of derivation “emo” indie-rock is mired in: melodies and dynamics ripped off from Sunny Day Real Estate, male-female harmonies ripped off from Superchunk, and pacing and structure ripped off from Red House Painters. You’d have to have your head stuck far up your ass to not realize that fact, but this criticism, unfortunately, extends to a slew of other like-minded bands. In an alternate universe, Rainer Maria was saying to me “It’s a sunny day to buy some real estate! How ’bout a red-painted house?” My advice: never trust “realtors.”