It was not yet showtime, but the room fell into an anticipatory hush when frontman Sam Margin stepped on stage for line check. Wolf-whistles sounded from the crowd as drummer Scott Baldwin peeled off a layer, revealing a simple white T-shirt. Despite the wintry temperatures outside, it felt tropical inside Mercury Lounge, packed with fans who didn’t get their fill of the Australian rockers the night before at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right.
The Rubens, a five-piece band originally from New South Wales, wrapped up a U.S. tour Friday night behind their third record, due out later this year. The album title is still a secret, but if chart-topping sophomore offering Hoops and the new single “Million Man” are any indication, The Rubens continue to captivate with their bluesy rock, anchored by R&B-inflected beats and a blend of soul and grit.
The band comprises three brothers — Sam, Elliott (keys, vocals), and Zaac Margin (lead guitar) — alongside Scott Baldwin (drums) and William Zeglis (bass). Their latest collaboration with Wilder Zoby and Torbitt Schwartz — two-thirds of Run the Jewels’ production team — capitalizes on The Rubens’ groove-filled, hip-hop-influenced aesthetic — think Drake and The Weeknd meets the Animals (as in the Brit-invaders headed by velvet-voiced Eric Burdon). The resulting sound is alternately moody and energized, and entirely addicting (“My Gun” belongs in the opening credits of the next 007 film).
Friday’s set started with “Teeth” (check out a stripped-down rendition at Paste Studios here) and “Cut Me Loose,” Sam shedding his jacket and readjusting his red beanie as the crowd pressed up against the edge of the stage, mouthing the lyrics in pure bliss. Hopping off the stage, Sam laughed in surprise as a particularly adoring fan clutched him in a bear hug. The set included a meditative, beautifully downtempo version of Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs,” and other crowd favorites like “Hoops.”
Brooklyn’s Thick, a trio of girlwave/punk rockers — Kate Black and Nikki Sisti on guitars, Shari Page on drums — warmed up the audience with an opening set of nonstop kinetic energy. Thick’s songs are lighthearted yet intense, filled with a self-aware sort of post-feminist insouciance. The lyrics call out guys for mansplaining how to play guitar and muse on jobs and relationships (check out “Anymore“), all with a combination of humor and ferocity in the style of their riot grrrl forebears.
Article: Vivian Wang