Last Friday, Bottom Lounge was packed with some of the most feverishly intense fans I’ve seen in a long time. The crowd was laser focused on having a good night while letting Albert Hammond Jr. and The Marías music wash over them. The lineup at first glance seemed a little strange with The Marías providing smooth jazzy pop while AHJ drives forward with rock ‘n’ roll jams. But somehow the two sounds mixed incredibly well together, making for a memorable show for an incredibly passionate.
First up were the The Maria’s, led by María Zardoya, who’s instantly accessible songs made Bottom Lounge feel like a completely different place. Their sound has this unique quality of shifting the atmosphere to a timeless era where their music is everything you could ever what to hear. There is something undeniably magical about The Marías’ jazz lounge inspired stage presence. A large part of that is due to just how compelling the band is as they glide through their dreamy songs kissed with a little touch of psychedelia. Zardoya in particular shined through as her smooth and effortless dance moves complimented the groups’ more ethereal tracks likes “I Like It”, “I Don’t Know You”, and “Superclean”. All these of these songs are backed with sultry instrumentation, letting her smokey vocals reach out to the foreground.
Zardoya’s voice was the clear star of the set as she serenaded the crowd in both English and Spanish.”Ya Basta” speaks of a longing love that needs to come to an end and Zardoya carried it with poise and grace. The crowd was all smiles during this highlight of the set, meeting the song’s end with echoing cries of “Puerto Rico”, letting The Marías know the multilingual set was well appreciated. “Dejante Llevar” the set closer, navigates a come and go situation with a lover so succinctly that evokes so many feeling that only Zardoya’s voice could muster. Having played the entirety of their EP Superclean Vol. 1 and a few extra tracks, The Marías’ easily made a ton of new fans with their performance.
When the lights came down for Albert Hammond Jr.’s set, the crowd absolutely lost it. Ear rupturing shrieks erupted from fans and their bodies surged forward to greet their superstar-rockstar. As he entered the stage, someone close to the front yelled as loud as she could :”I want to fuck you!”. Or maybe it was suck? I honestly couldn’t tell; the rest of the audience’s enthusiasm was so noisy that it drowned out everything around until AHJ and his band let their songs take over.
Opening with “Caught By My Shadow” off Momentary Masters, AHJ and crew hit hard with their insanely electrifying skills. AHJ’s sound is indebted tot he the revitalized rock ‘n’ roll he helped bring back with The Strokes. Full of memorable riffs and then some, his tenure with that band can’t be ignored. All the bravado and showmanship he gained during that time in his career has paid off during this solo career and at this show. If anything, his latest albums Momentary Masters and Francis Trouble are emblems of just how much he’s honed the NYC rock sound and evolved it to be his very own.
Playing nearly the entirety of Francis Trouble, inspired by his unborn twin, and half of his first album Yours to Keep, AHJ showed off just how far he’s come. With a few updates that live performance naturally brings, songs like “101” and “In Transit” could fit right in with the best of Francis Trouble. The setlist didn’t stray too far from the current bookends of his solo career, with only a song or two coming from his middle albums. This was much to the chagrin of a few fans who shouted out for “Spooky Couch”, a deep cut instrumental he played a portion of the last time AHJ was at the Bottom Lounge. “I guess we should have prepped ‘Spooky Couch'” he uttered softly, realizing just how eager the crowd was for his music.
Throughout the night the energy from both the band and the audience was palpable. The crowd’s excited yells matched the onstage ferocity. AHJ grooved around the stage with all the confidence in the world, giving his songs an extra emphasis and he climbed up speakers and jumped off with reckless abandon. You could instantly tell that he wasn’t going off with a by the number kind of performance. AHJ looked and sounded like he was having as good a time playing “Tea For Two” or “St. Justice” as we were watching him.
When it came time for the encore, the crowd’s yells were met with a long four song finale that kicked off with AHJ making his way through the venue floor. For the entirety of the first song, a cover of Guided by Voices’ “Postal Blowfish”, AHJ was at the front of the crowd. The feeling was manic and intense, the whole night had led up to this moment, blasting out a song as adoring fans engulfed him. Feeding off that energy, AHJ jumped back on stage, letting “Rocky’s Late Night” pour out and giving an appropriately tender rendition of “Blue Skies”. AHJ and his incredible band finished off the night with “Mute Beatings”. The final song burst forth and left the crowd with the same grin on their faces as Albert Hammond Jr. had all night.