It was midnight at the Mercury Lounge as two figures took the stage, almost completely shrouded in darkness. A looping sample arose from unseen speakers and a singer stepped forward—the features of his face still faint in a silhouette; a mic cord wrapped around his hand. With a deep breath, he opened up his throat and heaved forward, emitting an astonishing force of sound as the venue’s brick walls rattled in protest.
Majical Cloudz Play Powerful Show at the Mercury Lounge
Moments like these paint a picture of Majical Cloudz. Everything about this band is unassuming (right down to their name), so when they arrived on stage last Saturday with lead singer Devon Welsh dressed simply in a white tee and jeans, it was tough to get an idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, they fielded any questions immediately by perfectly recreating the powerful sound of this year’s fantastic debut LP, Impersonator.
Welsh shook with intensity, as he belted out haunting lyrics into a room of captivated listeners. “This is magic,” he repeated as a dreary tune faded out, and suddenly the impersonation ended. Welsh emerged from a possessed state with a nonchalant “OK.” He looked out into the crowd and began speaking with the dry humor and stage presence of a stand-up comedian, encouraging fan interaction and ruminating aloud.
With the turn of a knob, producer Matthew Otto started another otherworldly beat, and instantly Welsh transformed back. He crooned long melodic phrases with a single breath over bass you could feel in your chest. The room shook with every note.
A song would end, and again, the laughter continued, often thanks to the fact that any crowd member’s voice was perfectly audible in the small venue.
Welsh: Has anyone been to one of our shows before?
Fan: Yeah! Last night!
Welsh: Oh, you saw us last night?
Fan: [awkward pause] …Yeah.
There was a certain intimacy in the cozy confines of lower Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge that night. The crowd was as much a part of the show as the artists themselves. Welsh relished this atmosphere, and mid-set, he invited anyone who so pleased (about a quarter of the crowd) to join them on stage. After some adjusting, Majical Cloudz played the remainder of their show essentially “in-the-round,” with fans surrounding them from all angles. It added a fairly unique feel to it all.
Welsh sipped honey in between songs to aid strained vocal chords, yet continued to power his way through highlight, “Childhood’s End,” as the crowd bobbed their heads to a bouncing rhythm. The injury had little effect on the raw strength of his voice.
The shadows still basked over Welsh’s shaved head, obscuring his features. It was like watching a ghost. His voice comes from a different place than his physical presence; it transports the listener along with him to the dead of night, where all is quiet aside from pensive thoughts of love and loss.
The set closed fittingly with the excellent “Bugs Don’t Buzz,” an enveloping tune with an earth-shaking bass drop. The crowd hung on Welsh’s every word, while he wandered through the existential lyrics.
“It pays to be on the edge of existence / Just riding the surface, my love,” he sang. If there is such a place, Majical Cloudz took their fans there on Saturday night, if only for an instant.
The house lights came on at the song’s conclusion. Fans on-stage rushed over to greet Welsh with a handshake or a smile; they expected the source of the powerful voice, but they only got the impersonator. It seems Welsh’s other presence can only be seen in the shadows, where his songs live.
Article by Nicolas White