LastNight: The Mooney Suzuki at The Rickshaw Shop.

Categories: Last Night

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Better than: The Strokes, the Vines, the Hives, and all those other mono-syllabic neo-garage bands that left the Mooney Suzuki in their wake.
Dowload: The Mooney Suzuki in a shitty Suzuki commercial : (

Friday night at The Rickshaw was a non-stop rock marathon. Kicking it off were Denver dance-punkers Photo Atlas. With twitchy guitars, racing hi-hats, and screeching vocals, this band picked up where At the Drive In left off. But too early for a dance party, the band was able only to turn a room full of sober audience members into attentive head-bobbers.

SF locals Music For Animals seemed to be the evening’s main attraction. Their performance marked the official (though belated) release party of their EP Transmission, and from the looks of the crowd, not a single friend or family member missed it. What their indie rock lacked in originality, the band made up for in production values, incorporating a scantily clad referee/dancer, a giant one-eyed Elmo piñata (who was shamelessly torn apart), and a fleeting porn clip or two on the projection screen.

It felt like a day at Burning Man by the time the headliners took the stage. But the heat didn’t bother the Mooney Suzuki. Opening “Singin’ a Song About Today” by leaping off the bass drum, frontman Sammy James, Jr. went wild on stage and the dancing crowd worked up a sweat in no time. The band’s Myspace headline doesn’t lie: They really are “1% Inspiration…99% Perspiration!!!”

After the favorites “Electric Sweat” and “In a Young Man’s Mind,” they played a series from their new release, Have Mercy. Pausing between songs to take a sip of his drink, James said, “This is like a bottomless cup of whiskey." An audience member hollered, “A bottomless cup of ROCK!”

That it was. Blinded all night by the hair in his face, guitarist Graham Tyler pumped out one phenomenal solo after another. And with James doing cheerleader-style jumps and standing on the bass drum to play, there was no denying it: These guys were rock stars.

After ending their set with the fitting “Alive & Amplified,” the band returned for an encore, which began with this announcement: “There are a lot of bad things you can say about the Mooney Suzuki. There are a lot of bad things that have been said about the Mooney Suzuki. But one thing you can never say is that the Mooney Suzuki refused to finish you off.”

They played two songs from their new album—one which sounded surprisingly like “Great Balls of Fire”—before returning for a second (somewhat unwarranted) encore. Though a few exhausted audience members were beginning to sneak out (How can you walk out on “Oh Sweet Susanna?”) the band maintained their superhuman energy level until the very end.

Well, they’re not Can. Not even close. But for straight-up visceral, shameless rock ‘n’ roll -- live -- I’d say they’re pretty hard to beat.

Critic's Notebook 

Personal Bias:
Sammy James Jr. kinda looks like Aerosmith. I loooove Aerosmith.
Random Detail: Did I mention they were in a Suzuki commercial?
By the way: The band will play Seattle Monday night before heading to the East Coast.

--Liz Iversen

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