I hadn’t been to a concert at The Natural History Museum’s First Friday since they started charging for admission. The museum shows the shows on screens outside the room where the actual show is and the sound is decent. But when I saw Mikal Cronin was playing in April, I thought “I want to be in the room for that.”
First Friday’s at the NHM is always a fun time. Get there early for the guest speaker and stay for the drinks, DJs, and live music. There’s usually two bands and tonight the opener was Long Beach’s Tijuana Panthers. I didn’t have a chance to check them out before the show so I didn’t know what to expect. It was apparent they had a following because the room was filled up by the time they started playing. The room in question is a long hall with dioramas of North American mammals. A large display of bison is directly behind the stage and bears, bighorn sheep and wolves surround everyone listening to the band. It’s a neat place to see a show.
Tijuana Panthers is a three piece, drums, guitar, bass and all three get in on the singing duties. They definitely have a California sound. I’d describe them as surf rock playing at punk tempos (mostly). They packed in a bunch of songs, first mostly from their new album, Semi Sweet. A funny moment was when a fan yelled for the band to play “Tony’s Song” and then guitarist Chad Watchel smirked and told him “We just played that one. Sorry Tony.” Other songs I recognized by name were Boardwalk, One Way Ticket, and Pushover. They also played some of their older stuff to the delight of their fans, including a really good song called Red Headed Girl. In addition to being good musicians, they are fun to watch. We both concentrated on drummer Phil Shaheen, whose tall, wiry frame bopped and flailed around like he was sitting on springs. His hair bounced along like it was its own being. I would definitely recommend seeing them or listening to their record.
After that fun set, it was time for some more California rock with Mikal Cronin. The 28 year old’s MCII record was one of my favorite last year. It was a record that could be both sweet and sunny and then turn on a dime into a scraping guitar solos. Not sure if others hear it, but it reminds me of a more grungy early 90s Matthew Sweet. I was interested to see what side of Cronin would dominate during his show.
We got an inkling of what we were in store for when Cronin and his band came out looking like roadies for Motorhead, jeans, black tshirts, and no one had hair that was shorter than shoulder length. Mikal seemed genuinely giddy to be playing in the museum, remarking about several of the animals that were surrounding the stage. And with that, they started playing and then it got loud.
He played a good number of songs from MCII and while the songs did have those sweet moments when Mikal sang his verses, the choruses and guitar solos would have sent even the grizzly bear (if he wasn’t stuffed) sprinting for the hills. “Shout It Out” and “See It My Way”, two of my favorite songs of his were in the set list. Mikal showed off his chops as did his other guitarist, as they traded solos and got some headbanging in with that long hair.
You can tell from his interactions with the crowd and his bandmates that Mikal really enjoys just getting up on a stage and playing and is thankful for the opportunity. I’ll definitely try to see him again, I just will make sure to have my earplugs along, my old ears can’t take that glorious racket as well as they used to!
Here’s a video of Cronin playing “See It My Way” at last year’s Pitchfork festival: