Written by Tina Benitez, Photos by Patrick Eves
A.J. Jackson’s blood left a crimson matte finish on the front of his guitar. Despite the sweat- and haze-filled room, created from a lack of air conditioning, a temporary smoke machine and excessive body heat within the packed house at Glasslands last night, patrons still jumped, danced, propelled their hands out and clapped to the hooky grooves offered up by LA rockers Saint Motel. No noticeable tears to the naked eye, blood and sweat summed up Saint Motel’s nearly hour-long set.
“This is as good as it gets,” said singer Jackson. “So get crazy.” Offering up all six tracks from their 2009 EP ForPlay and a handful of newer ones, Saint Motel appeared behind the fog, four apparitions performing in a fantastical dream where it’s the last show on earth—at least the boiling temperatures inside the venue made it feel this way. Mini blue, green and red lights clamped onto their guitar necks and drums provided the only stage lighting for the evening, perhaps a respite to melting under spotlights in the already toasty room. Opening with the racing, dance-y “Eat Your Heart Out,” Saint Motel sprinkled in other ForPlay tracks like “Do Everything Now” and the rumbling, anthem “Dear Dictator” the story of a malicious tyrant who gets what he deserves.
The last time the LA quartet played in New York was for the Rock & Roll Circus in January, a showcase of The Big Apple Circus and music that also featured Ariel Pink and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. Perhaps caught up in the thumping room (not an aftershock from the small earthquake that traveled through New York City earlier in the day) or delirious from lack of oxygen, at one point Jackson couldn’t figure out why there was so much water on his keys then realized it was him. “We’re all sweaty,” he said. “We’re all in this together.” The band, mid-way through their set announced their favorite song of all time, a cover of The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” leaving bassist Aaron Sharp and Jackson with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend a capella duties.
Things didn’t simmer down within the hour. The crowd continued moving, sweating profusely and wanted more, including new single “Puzzle Pieces,” a more upbeat, pop track with vaudeville piano riffs moving it along. “Some blood and sweat and tears, we learned each other’s fears” seemed appropriate lyrics as Saint Motel closed with “To My Enemies” adding in one more encore. “And here I thought we were done,” said Jackson acknowledging the heavy chants for another song.
“This is going to be a good one,” said Jackson prior to the set, excited about playing New York after seven months. For a band with nothing more than a six-song EP and a few more tracks they’ve recorded over the past two years to fall back on, they’ve still managed to keep a firm following cross country. At work on a new EP and eventual debut album, Saint Motel not only have cajones but prove that lack of air and a little bloodshed only make you stronger.