Photos by: Peter Cozens
When you go to a concert and the first band performing is called Shark Legs, you expect greatness. When the band gets up on stage and the bassist has the best 70s porn star mustache you’ve ever seen, greatness is confirmed.
Shark Legs consists of aforementioned fabulously-mustachioed bassist Jacob Jones, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Bedard, and drummer Landon Cross. From the moment they stepped onstage, it was obvious they were there to put on a show. Bedard, the frontman, has a wonderfully colloquial performing style; at one point, he asked the audience what time it was so he could gauge where they were in the set, but he didn’t do so in a nervous or unprofessional way. He brought the audience into the performance; he made everyone a team. Bedard has a natural alluring nonchalance about him that’s hard to manufacture and golden to possess.
Jones, though, is more infectious than the flu. Everything about him was impossible to resist, from his giant smile to his wacky, constant dance moves to the caterpillar on his face. Shark Legs did a bang-ass cover of “Shout,” and every time Bedard chimed “a little bit softer now,” Jones did a little curtsey-lunge. It’s doubtful anyone has ever actually wanted to sing along to that song since 1970, but Jones made it damn near impossible not to join in.
Peyote Ugly was up next, and if a band has ever lived up to its name, it’s them. Shark Legs and Peyote both perform in the general psych-rock landscape, but, especially compared to the hype of Cross, Peyote laid back more mellowly into their groove. Keyboardist and vocalist Brennan Moring, specifically, has a very in-the-pocket, sensual vibe, and their whole set felt wonderfully under the influence of their namesake. Peyote took you on a trip, and it didn’t matter to where. You were with them.
The band also fills out the “ugly” part of their moniker: their instrumentation is grungy and full — which is especially impressive for a three-piece — but Moring and guitarist Elliot Preston’s vocals are beautifully haunting. It creates a contrast of musical voices that don’t traditionally go together but somehow mesh into this lovely, unexpected melodic yet distorted sound. It’s “ugly,” yet beautiful.
Towards the end of the set, Moring showed the audience the band’s new t-shirts, and, during their last song, they threw one into the delighted audience, proving that they’re true pros who know how to work a crowd.
The Landmarks rounded out the night. The band originally hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it shows. Ann Arbor — home to the University of Michigan — has a very confident aura, and The Landmarks projected that. They came on stage poised, and they rocked it out. Their stage set up was particularly good; on a small stage, it’s easy for band members to get lost, but the five piece popped their bassist up next to their drummer, and it opened up the stage for everyone to do their thing.
Although they didn’t interact with the audience much between songs, the Landmarks connected through their music and varied approach. For their last song, the frontman took off his guitar so he could throw down a few drum beats, came back to the mic and sang a verse, then picked up his guitar again and starting jamming. The entire band had a quiet confidence that invited the listener in but didn’t hold anyone hostage.
At most small venues, you never know what you’re going to get, but these three bands really vibed together; each was fantastic in their own right, and they were similar enough yet differentiated enough to keep the show rolling in the right direction and leave listeners with happy ears.