Tuesday, July 3

Pela: A Midnight Snack For Your Ears

Music can be food for the soul. Some bands taste like Thanksgiving gravy and others like a tart lollipop – each tune satisfies specific cravings, of course. Seeing Pela the other night made me feel like a kid again, shoving gummy bears and ding dongs into my ears. Like most desserts, they provide an immediate rush with a side of instant gratification.
The Brooklyn based band played a sincere show last week at the Mercury Lounge, ending their 19-day tour with “Brakes, Brakes, Brakes,” and “Electric Soft Parade.” The vibe was intimate, and the crowd was casual. I was surprised to see so many bodies out on a Sunday night, but these people didn’t just drop by to try and dig a new sound. They were here for the music they had come to love—obvious from their dead-on lip-synching. When the music started I felt as though I was seeing the first performance of a garage band that had spent years banging and plucking away and was just now emerging from their metal cocoon. Their sound was real, yet polished and therefore spectacularly ripe. Pela played engaging, tight songs with high energy. Tunes included crowd pleasers such as “Philadelphia,” “Lost Highway,” and “Saving Clyde the Cop.” Each member of the band kept a careful watch on the others, connecting with each other, and in turn, connecting with the audience.
I caught up with bassist Eric Sanderson after the show for a closer look. In a search for beer, I was lead down to the dingy dressing room where the bands reconvened after a thrilling performance of, “Calvary” where each member of the tour took the stage with instruments such as tambourines, water coolers and toilet plungers. Lead singer Billy McCarthy entered soaked in sweat with a wide grin on his face shouting, “That was amazing!” Eric and I escaped to the hallway where I tried to see where this band had been and where they were going.

“You’ve been together for 5 years, but have just now released your first album, ‘Anytown Graffiti.’ Why has it taken so long?”
“Money. Half of this album is compromised in our eyes. We really piecemealed everything together.”

He informs me that they paid for and produced the album themselves. Dan Long engineered and mixed a lot of the tracks, but they couldn’t get enough funds together to have him work on the entire album.

“You’ve been traveling around America for nearly three weeks. What is the first thing you will do once you get home?”
“Sleep—I think all of us are really shot at this point. Billy might have a broken foot and I’ve been sick for days. We’ve been driving a lot and drinking a lot.”

Eric continues to tell me that the group got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep per night. He surmises that this might be a good time for some much needed detox.

“What can Pela fans expect from the new album? Will you keep the sound you’ve cultivated or go in a new direction?”
“It’s definitely going to change, but not drastically. We’re going to bring out a lot more horns. We’re really going to push ourselves and be a lot more experimental. We kinda reinvent ourselves every time we go into the studio.”

For my taste, this band is not palatable like a fine piece of fish accompanied with a dry wine. I didn’t go home and savor the flavors of the night or reflect on the composition of what I ingested. Instead, I got into bed, worn out from a sugar high of rock and roll.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, check out Pela next on August 25th, 2007 8:00pm @ Bowery Ballroom (Advice: Get tickets early. Their last two New York shows have sold out.)

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