The crowd of stylish electro-heads may have ducked out of the rain to catch Junior Boys at the the Mercy Lounge last Friday, but if you're looking to give the night a fresh start, there's no better opener than Max Tundra. Welcoming the crowd with a rendition of the Beach Boys' "Feel Flows" as the speakers faded out the same song, Max Tundra (a.k.a. Ben Jacobs) quickly snapped into standout track "Orphans" for his official opener.
A spastic, tireless one-man show tapping out brain-bending beats one song to the next, Jacobs ran across the stage like a manic ballerina, sometimes switching from among his menagerie of novelty instruments for but a few seconds of play before once again pounding his many keyboards. Closing out with a frenzied cover of "So Long, Farewell," Tundra had the crowd primed for the night's headliners.
While Junior Boys' albums typically deal in layers of discreet, meticulously balanced melodies, their live show turns those otherwise austere textures into danceable drum-and-bass bursts. Each song kept its rather precarious structures in tact, but tracks like "Work" converted soft patters into a full-on house beat that drove home the revolving synths and swelled into a floor-shaking collage. A backup drummer maximized the Boys' power, and live staples "Double Shadow" and "Birthday" stamped out flinty rhythms without ever drowning out the song's melancholy undertones.
If mixing board mastermind Matt Didemus stood expressionless behind his table of mangled wires and Moog synthesizers, vocalist Jeremy Greenspan held his own fairly well as the de facto frontman. The rabble of fashion-conscious patrons--which included Nashville's own electro-dance outfit Jensen Sportag, there to cheer on Max Tundra, who recently released a remix of their song "Cocktease"--hugged the stage, glad to soak up the throbbing bass.