Psychedelic indie-rock duo Golden Animals played the opening slot at The Grey Eagle on Tuesday night. Opening acts can go any number of ways — they can shyly entertain a handful of early arrivals, they can use the 30 or 45 minutes to win new fans, or they can play like they’re headlining.
Golden Animals did the latter. With just two people on stage (vocalist/guitarist Tommy Eisner and vocalist/drummer Linda Beecroft), the band created a huge sound. Big, loud and gritty. Before the first song had finished, Golden Animals had drawn in all the people milling outside and at the bar.
Throughout their set, Eisner and Beecroft mixed songs from their upcoming album with road-tested songs. But the thing about Golden Animals is, even if you’ve never heard them before, the songs are instantly catchy. There are elements of ‘60s garage rock, of The Zombies and The Doors, with nods to modern acts, too, like Band of Skulls. Beercroft performs barefoot and swings her arm in a windmill while playing the drums. She lends a soft-but-important background vocal that lends texture and depth to the songs. There are blues-rock phrases and thick, driving percussion — a deceptive simplicity that creates the perfect pallet for Eisner’s dramatic vocal.
“My mind won’t leave me alone,” Eisner sings in a Troggs-meets-Cramps number, studded with dramatic pauses. “My heart won’t throw me a bone, I guess I’ll be alone.” On a slower, ballad number, Eisner’s voice goes Leonard Cohen deep, singing, “I can’t seem to sleep at night.” There’s a spooky edge and lots of reverb: a dark magic as the duo creates a moment.
Eisner and Beercroft play not just as two competent musicians, but as extensions of each other. Their cues are subtle but their stops and starts are knife-edged and their instincts are those of a couple who complete each other’s sentences. They share a very cool, unhurried sense of timing, always behind the beat in a way that would lend itself to funk but, here, is pure rock.
And, even when the band dabbles in different sounds (there’s a surf-rock song and another that recalls Stray Cats’ “Stray Cat Strut” — watch the video of that song, below), they always maintain an aesthetic of psychedelia-noir.
Golden Animals ends its set with a cover of Gun Club’s “The Fire of Love” — every bit as heavy and driving as the original but, at the same time, more limber, more musical. Because Golden Animals can do that.