schuba's. tuesday. november 30, 1999. 9pm.

...introduction by m.k...

the project your about to watch has been built piece by piece over the last five years. millimeters mercury started in a coffee shop as two boys, robert and travis, played cover songs and folky acoustic originals that could hardly be heard over the shake machine. after a long period of personal and musical development, they very suddenly became a rock band. they made a first go at it with stephen barbara and joe block, but this incarnation was, unavoidably, not meant to be. there was a pause, and then another sudden reconstruction as chris vlasses entered the fray. chris injected a drive into the band that didn't exist before, and it was clear from their first show together that it all just made sense. simultaneously, they began the revolving door bassist syndrome. after stephen came conor, who can be heard on the first cd, then sam, then john, who's on the second ep. when john left, just as all hope for a permanent band member seemed lost, finally they found gbe, who shared their vision and commitment to what was now veritably its own self-contained culture, with inside-jokes and a cast of obscure fictional characters: neckface, the rocktapotamus, and whatever that nerf football's name was [ed: lenny g. and lenny h. ]. the musical influences were no longer in the foreground, and songwriting risks paid off in full. gone were the lyrics exalting natalie portman, replaced by resonant epics and poignant social commentary. meters got odder and the vocals became more intricately woven to the music, as wave after wave of new songs showed up on stage. the set lists became adventures for the audience, where, by the end of the show, we were not in the same place we started in. that was a real accomplishment. but what was even more fascinating was the realization one day that everyone in the band was a singer. and if that wasn't enough, they all had completely different styles of singing. even the drummer started to front whole sets of songs in a row (i was pretty happy at the last show when we finally got a well deserved face-full of chris). the way in which that fact affected their most recent songwriting has given millimeters mercury such a fresh and vibrant sound and revolutionized the way they play almost every single one of their songs. if you don't get it already, just watch for the patented four-members-on-the-mic moments and you'll understand what i mean. every show we've been to has been like watching footage of a statue exploding in reverse. you could almost notice the exact moments when a song would feel fully written, or a member of the band just tapped into a new compositional depth. it's clear to me that if you want to really know any of the members of mmhg you only need to pay close attention to one of their shows. only now, in the bands last days, after five increasingly awesome cds, about 100 live performances, thousands of dollars worth of stolen equipment, two totaled or stolen vans, and one million broken strings, is it clear to what degree millimeters mercury just doesn't work without all four of them playing at one time. that's a subtle thing to appreciate but it's perhaps the most interesting accomplishment of all. so here's to the alltoo short history, and the sense of urgency and enjoyment that i've never been able to find anywhere else.

SETLIST:

tigerforce
sun is falling
keep your hands away
consumer catalogue
k.o. star
too close
ace aviatrix
perfect radio faces
truth in advertising
permanent marker
i!d!m!
don't drive away