The Mercury Program
with the Divine Hex, Isiah, and Carlisle
DIY Records, Orlando, FL • October 1, 1999
After arriving at DIY, perusing their selection and jawing with non-seen friends for a while, I was in the mood for some way out energetic, song based (sometimes loosely so) nutterisms, also known as punk rock.
The Divine Hex took the stage (or rather, the floor) first. It seemed that many people were there just to see them, as the small room was fairly crowded. They played loud, angry, screamy music that doesn’t quite fit in the complex system of punk taxonomy. Guitar, bass, drums, lead banshee, and a keyboardist. The keyboards seemed there too add body to the already thick sonic soup, I couldn’t pick it out of the mix. At one point, a crowd member leaped atop the singer’s back. They jumped around for a while before the rider dismounted and allowed the singer to proceed with his vocal onslaught. They played a number of songs, before they were quickly whisked away for Gainesville’s Isiah.
A friend remarked that they sounded like Firehose, which I do agree with. Isiah’s bass carries the melodies while the guitar offers a soft, fuzzy bed. The drummer also handled singing duties, which I felt was admirable. The crowd was somewhat diminished for their set, which is too bad. They played well.
Even though I enjoyed the other two bands, The Mercury Program was what I was eagerly awaiting. Their CD on Boxcar has brought them much acclaim, all of it due. I watched them set up their equipment, which included a vibraphone and a Fender Rhodes. I knew we were in for something big, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. The drummer started creating soft, resonant tones by bowing the vibraphone. The rest of the band followed suit by using their instruments to generate flowing textures. Eventually the band fell into their respective places. They played a few songs from their CD, with amazing precision. The sound swayed and rolled, back and forth, though not necessitating the use of Dramamine. Guitarist Tom Reno at one point used the mic stand as a slide and tapping the head of his guitar on the stand, causing some brilliant harmonics. However, no matter how well they played those songs, nothing will be as memorable about that night as the long, jammy piece they played. They announced it as “something we don’t play a lot.” I am doubtful of that; perfection must be carefully rehearsed. They brought another man in to coax melodies from the Rhodes. Suffice it to say that am thoroughly sorry I didn’t bring a recording mechanism, and that my life will be incomplete if that isn’t committed to vinyl or plastic. They rounded the set off with “From Athens to Rome,” leaving the audience and this fan elated.
Carlisle was up next, but I had to leave after a few songs. They utilize piercing screams that somehow fit in the warm instrumental bed. I knew what to expect, but I am bemused at what a newcomer to this sort of thing would think. They may feel that the vocals are completely incongruous to the rest of the band, sort of like a sharp razor ripping through flesh. Good nonetheless, and I was sorry to have missed the rest of their set.
Overall, it was a rewarding and entertaining evening. We were lucky enough to witness the Mercury Program rise from the dying corpse of rock and roll. Yeah.