On Saturday, August 23rd, I had the opportunity to attend a co-headlining show of Air Traffic Controller and The Tragic Thrills at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. The tour was part of a larger promotion for Air Traffic Controller’s new single, “The House,” which was produced by Bleu (Jonas Brothers, Boys Like Girls). ATC has already received notable recognition, being named “The Best Indie Alternative Song” by the Independent Music Awards, placing on NPR’s Hot 100 List for SXSW, and being The Guardian UK’s “Band of the Day” at one point.
Such praise was a great way to preface the show, raising my expectations, and I’m happy to report I was not disappointed. What stood out about ATC the most for me was their use of strings. This addition sets ATC apart and creates a more folky sound that many indie pop bands strive for, but can’t quite capture live. The strings, however, demonstrated great promise for ATC. I was reminded of the successes of The Head & The Heart and Mumford & Sons especially. The vocal harmony between Dave Munro and Casey Sullivan was also quite impressive. The gentle accompaniment of Sullivan’s voice was a definite favorite.
Some of the biggest songs of the night included “Hurry, Hurry” and the fan favorite, “Bad Axe, MI.” “Hurry, Hurry” was very energetic and created the perfect opportunity for crowd participation. The tempo is quick and you almost have to get off your feet to truly enjoy it. The chorus of “hurry, hurry” and “oh ohs” also lends to that crowd participation that artists and fans alike love.
“Bad Axe, MI” was not my favorite of the night, but is one that has become popular among ATC fans. The song tells the story of real life band, Bad Axe, from Bad Axe, MI. Lead singer Dave Munro was good friends with the band, and was so upset when they broke up that he wrote them their own song. As most great songs go, Munro drew from personal experience and banged out this hit in about five minutes. Munro and the rest of the band, and even the crowd were able to capture the mood of “Bad Axe, MI” perfectly. Even if it wasn’t my favorite, I could feel the heart that went into writing it and how that has come across, impacting the fans.
My favorite song of the night was “Warrior.” The beginning of the song immediately captivated me as the men of the band sang backup in a sort of Gregorian chant, giving Casey Sullivan the chance to take the stage as lead vocalist. The effect was almost entrancing it was so cool.
The highlight of ATC’s set, however, should really be their new single, “The House.” The entire tour was built around this song, and it was clear how much the band has put into this new music. You could tell how much fun they had performing it, and even listening to it after the show I can feel the smiles on their faces. Such energy spread to the crowd, as well, giving me confidence that Air Traffic Controller gained some new fans that night.
Other songs played included “You Know Me,” “The Work,” “Pick Me Up,” “If You Build It,” and “Ready or Not.”
The other headliner of the night was The Tragic Thrills, formerly part of Allstar Weekend. They were able to carry the energy that ATC had established, and were very personable with the crowd. I also found that they had a pretty good fan base, considering how new they are (performing only since fall 2013).
The Tragic Thrills’ sound is still considered influenced by pop, but their sound seemed to have stronger indie and folk vibes. I think this new sound will be a good direction for The Tragic Thrills, and pairing them with Air Traffic Controller made for an exciting tour.
The tour has since wrapped up, but if you have chance to see these bands in the future, I highly suggest it. In the meantime, be sure to check out Air Traffic Controller and The Tragic Thrills on Spotify.