As part of their ongoing European tour, American indie rockers Mercury Rev will be making a Tel Aviv appearance on Monday at Hangar 11. Despite a love for Israeli musical tastes, the band hasn't been to the country in over five years.
"You find real lovers of music in Israel" rather than blind mass media followers, guitarist Sean "Grasshopper" Mackowiak recently told The Jerusalem Post's David Brinn. "I don't know why more bands don't come here."
Mercury Rev started out in Buffalo, New York, at the end of the Eighties, mostly recording soundtracks for arty student films. Since then, the band has established themselves with a steady career that is not so small that it requires supplimental "day jobs" and not so big that it necessitates booking stadium gigs. "That's what we've attempted to do," says Grasshopper. "You can ... express your individuality without being huge."
So deliberate is this niche that Mercury Rev even avoids over-exposure, going to such lengths as releasing their latest album in Europe prior to their native United States. "Europeans are a lot more open to new kinds of music," explains Grasshopper.
In the past, achieving too much too quickly brought distress to bands. One prime example is the British alternative rockers The Stone Roses, who disintegrated just before the release of their second album, largely due to industry pressure to match the success of their debut one. Another is the Californian seminal alternative guitar rock band, Jane's Addiction, who have only recently reunited after their early Nineties fame made them question their mission and call it quits. The question of what happens to "alternative" music when it becomes a blockbuster success is one that Mercury Rev is wise to avoid.
Mercury Rev's music combines alternative flavorings, backwater Americana, snarky attitude and spacey atmospheres in a manner similar to The Flaming Lips (the two ensembles have even traded band members) and other quirky peers. Moreover, Mercury Rev has gone through many personnel changes over the years, yet the core of Grasshopper and vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Donahue remains the same. Original bassist Dave Fridmann still produces their recordings, in addition to producing albums for alt-jammers Sparklehorse, low pitch post-rockers Mogwai and (of course) The Flaming Lips.
In yet another manifestation of the band's close connection with Israel, they invited local rocker Aviv Geffen to open for them at concerts in France a few months ago. Geffen may show up on stage with them at the Hangar this week as well, where the set list should favor material from their latest disc, The Secret Migration, an album considered by many to be a turning point for the group, who seem to have settled nicely into a post-millenial groove.