While the biggest Nor’easter in fifteen years was pounding the Atlantic seaboard, Young Galaxy rocked Mercury Lounge with an unbelievably impressive show. The Montreal-based band swung through New York on April 15th, in the lead-up to the release of their self-titled debut (QRO review). As polite as Mounties, they rocked as hard as Rush, delivering great performances of their most powerful songs, while turning their slower songs up to eleven, with the quality up to twelve. The rollicking six-some grabbed the audience’s attention and appreciation, and tore the roof off of the joint…
There was one error with Young Galaxy’s set, and that was their opener, “The Golden Coin”. Coming not from Young Galaxy, but rather their 2006 Swing Your Heartache Tour EP (in fact, the only song on that record that didn’t make it onto Young Galaxy), it took too long to start, and generally kept the flame on low. But then came Young Galaxy’s best track, “Wailing Wall”. Encompassing in its tragedy, its emotional power was brought in by the music, and singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay’s voice overwhelmed the crowd. Young Galaxy may not have had Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review) at hello, but they did have them.
Young Galaxy is actually just a duo, of Ramsay and Catherine McCandless, but live they featured four more musicians, giving their sound a weight and body, and giving the band a stronger presence on stage. The brighter, upbeat “Come and See” was the first song where singer/keyboardist/tambouriner McCandless took lead vocals, and the potentially too bright piece was fleshed out with five more people behind it. The same could be said for Ramsay’s “Lazy Religion”, whose slower tempo could have dragged it down, but with Young Galaxy’s six-person force, it just couldn’t be ignored.
“Outside The City” was the night’s most driving number, an anthemistic cry for the backwoods that could get to even the most urbane of Manhattanites, but it was “Swing Your Heartache” that was the night’s pinnacle. The opener of both its eponymous EP and of Young Galaxy, its chorus lines of “Love is a battle!”, “Life’s not a rehearsal!”, “Swing your heartache!”, and “Come on, babe!” were shouted by not just all six people on the crowded stage, but also by all the umpteen people on the crowded floor (as Ramsay put it afterwards, “Feels like a saloon here – You guys are crazy!”). Young Galaxy ended their set with “‘The Alchemy Between Us’, and it’s about the alchemy… between us” (Ramsay, motioning between the band and the audience). Its strong backbeat carried it on a high level through to its awesomely creative/destructive finish, where the band crashed their music time and time again, so energetically that one could almost have expected them to smash up their instruments, in an orgy of rock ‘n’ roll passion.
Young Galaxy was nothing if not gracious to the crowd, thanking them after every round of applause, and commending them for making it out to Mercury Lounge on a Sunday night, while the city was being hit with an almost Biblical torrent of rain. But the band was also incredibly jazzed about playing, and that energetic optimism washed over the audience (reminiscent of labelmates Broken Social Scene, especially when Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless would stand back-to-back, akin to BSS’ Kevin Drew and Leslie Feist in “7/4 (Shoreline)”). The rain may have been going for days, and the set only about thirty-five minutes, but the storm outside had nothing on the storm inside.