The Knights of Columbus slowly filled with people.
A song by The Dave Matthews Band played and Merchandise, a band from Tampa, Fla., prepared to start the first show of their five-week tour.
Carson Cox, lead singer and second guitarist, took the mic, apologizing for the Dave Matthews song. Then the show began with Dave Vassalotti on guitar, Patrick Brady on bass, and Elsner Nino on the drums.
Whirls of sound filled the room and the crowd slowly grew in size. As Cox sang, the mesmerizing sound built into a strong bass line and the crowd started dancing — but not enough for Cox’s approval. When the song ended, he yelled “Y’all ain’t dancing at all. My sister is kicking your ass.”
But they played on — dedicated and focused without forgetting to rock out. While strumming on his guitar, Vassalotti jumped off the side of the small stage and inspired the audience to do more than just bob their heads. He picked up the energy in the crowd close to the stage, but those in the back still remained stagnant throughout the performance.
“We still had a good time,” Vassalotti said.
Cox sang with emotion and energy, but wanted to do more. Since it was the first time he played second guitar for the band, he had to adjust to a different style of performing. “I just sing, and we have a drum machine. But we have a drummer now. It is a way different dynamic and it is the fullest we’ve sounded live.”
Sam MacGuire, a Georgia Southern University student, thought “the show was pretty good” and he “really liked the instrumentals.” He did note the low volume of the vocals, and the inability to hear when two local saxophone players joined the band on stage.
That probably derived from the intensity of Nino’s drumming as he pounded away with vigor.
Merchandise started as a recording project in the bedroom of Cox’s house. The band never played real shows, besides small house parties where Cox, microphone in hand, walked around the room to interact with people text messaging on their phones and invading their personal space.
Confined to the stage, he noticed the disconnection in the room. Before one song he said, “This one is going to be a slow song, so you don’t have to dance or nod.” He pointed to the crowd, “You can just turn around and face the other direction.”
Cox described Merchandise’s sound as music for music lovers, appealing to those in the room. Even if some were just there to see the next band, Chelsea Light Moving, Merchandise still delivered their punk influenced songs with passion.