Mikal Cronin at 7th St. Entry, 6/10/13

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Reed Fischer, who is not a professional photographer
Mikal Cronin
with Shannon and the Clams and Is/Is
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Monday, June 10, 2013

Mikal Cronin and his band had been building to this point all night. From the stop-start songs that kicked off his show at the Entry on Monday -- his first local headlining appearance -- to the poppier singles territory that came after, "Green and Blue" was just the sort of sprawling number to bust things wide open.

With his long, wavy hair hanging down over his face, Cronin stood in place, strumming his electric 12-string guitar. "Let my body go," he chanted, until the words sounded like some shamanistic invocation, almost swallowed up by the sludgy beat -- and then, instead, washed away by the swirling feedback.

See Also:
The Making of Mikal Cronin: How a Shy Kid from Laguna Beach Became the Best Pop Songwriter in San Francisco

In fact, the Bay area singer played his hand just about right last night, with a 50-minute set that came to an end at just about the right time -- which is to say, just as it peaked, and without dragging on longer than it needed to. It was appropriate, too, for an artist whose music has the most raucous garage rock in its DNA, yet manages to keep things reigned in just so.

Indeed, it was a no-frills sort of night, albeit one that seemed like it could wind up getting a little rowdy: there was crowd surfing during Shannon and the Clams' opening set, and one didn't need a long memory to recall the chaos of Cronin's close friend Ty Segall's set in the Entry last summer. But instead, Cronin and his band -- two guys plus a girl on drums, each with long hair and dark clothes -- were too plugged in to give off much in the way of wild energy.

That was probably for the better, because this was a show best appreciated with a little extra concentration. "Is It Alright," a song from Cronin's self-titled debut of two years ago, kicked things off with the singer cooing over a strummed intro. Then it abruptly launched into a scuzzy, crunchy riff that shifted back and forth between tempos. And so things went as the band explored some of its earlier material, as though toying with the audience: pulling them in close, and then pushing them away.

The tone shifted gradually as the setlist worked up to the songs from MCII, the record that came out just a month ago on Merge. Here there were real hooks, ones that played themselves out from beginning to end, but also building on their recorded versions -- gnarlier, more robust. Even though Cronin introduced each simply as "a song from a new album" -- as though they might be unfamiliar -- and even as his voice was chewed up by the noise surrounding it, the crowd already knew the words, and sang along.

It begged an interesting question, too. Sure, this was garage rock, with many of the typical trappings of throwback psychedelia, but it was also fueled by the restlessness and angst of early-'90s grunge and indie rock, not to mention the riffs, as well. Could this music have had more mainstream potential 20 years ago? Hard to say. Today, however, one can only hope it won't simply be a niche -- destined to be passed over for a blander, less dynamic counterpart like, say, Tame Impala (who, nonetheless, are critical darlings).

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