The notion that Monday’s are destined to terminally suck, no matter what you do, can be quickly unraveled by a mad, impulsive dash up the Highway in search of adventure and rad tunes. Luckily for me, a surprise stop by renowned rocker Mikal Cronin at Felton’s dingy dive bar Don Quixote’s gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that. As I was soon to see for sure, Mondays don’t really get much better than sipping an ice cold beer and watching one of your favorite artists serenade you and 15 others in a quiet bar nestled far from any major metropolitan area.
I arrived with a buddy at Don Quixote’s shortly after opening, having been forced to backtrack due to a road closure on Highway 9. The vibe was tranquil; the bar was mostly empty, aside from a few regulars and the members of the band watching the Giants game on the Flatscreen in the corner. It was only 10 minutes after doors, however; who knows what could happen. So, like any warm-blooded American would do, we bought a beer and waited for the inevitable awesomness that would begin at any moment.
Opening for Mikal Cronin were Fine Points, a band that the singer described as “from San-Francisco… ish.” Sonically, they resembled a dope combination of Surfer Blood and White Fence; an amalgamation of indie-surf jams and shoegaze fuzz. The band members mostly refused to take their eyes off the floor, but the rowdy late-show stage presence of the rhythm guitarist/singer set the stage for Mikal Cronin, who came on after a punctual gear setup.
Cronin’s set, one of the more intimate concert experiences of recent memory, was above all else a testament to his rock n roll prowess. Opening with the first two tracks off his new album, MCIII (Out May 4th on Merge Records), Mikal and his band . He then went into an old favorite, “Apathy”, a catchy as hell fuzz-punk jam off his self-titled first record. He broke a string on his beautiful 12-string guitar towards the end, and immediately went about tuning it at the end of the song, whistling as he worked.
“We’re glad you’re here!” shouted a girl in the front row. At that point I counted 18 people, including myself, in attendance.
“Yea, thanks for coming!” Mikal said, still tuning his guitar. “This is a real chill show. Super intimate, I love it.”
The rest of Cronin’s set was a carefully calculated mix between favorites from his first two albums and potential hits off his newest release, MCIII. Released on May 5th from Merge Records, Cronin’s newest effort sees the culmination of the creative trends embarked upon on his last album, MCII. Venturing far from the Garage Rock scene that birthed him (Before launching a solo career he has consistently performed as part of Ty Segall’s backing band), Cronin’s album and live performance rejects the fuzzed-out norm of said scene in place of piano driven melodies, clean production, and a B-Side “Concept Album” of sorts, chronicling a critical juncture in the musicians life. Cronin also experiments with a variety of sounds on his new album, including the use of a Greek Instrument known as a tzouras. Once again, the album sees nearly all of the recording and songwriting credit going to Mikal, a clear indicator of his musical prowess.
The show continued to go on without a hitch, as the small audience was mesmerized at the very thought of practically being serenaded by such talent. Finishing off the set with the song “Change” from MCII, Cronin said his thanks and began to triumphantly walk off the stage. It didn’t take more than a second for the small crowd to begin politely demanding an encore. Mikal and co returned with wide smiles on their faces, as if they were fraternity kids about to get into some crazy shenanigans.
“Alright” he smirked, “We’ve NEVER played this live before. It’s a cover” His bassist looked at him cautiously, mouthing the words “dude, are we even tuned?” before laughing and letting out a satisfying “oh, fuck it lets do it!” What followed was a tremendous Cronin-esque cover of Big Star’s “Ballad of El Goodo”, a power pop staple, covered by a garage rock artisan. The set was one for the books as is, but this small addition really capped off the whole experience.
After the end, my friends and I got a chance to meet Mikal and his band out in front of the venue. It’s always fun getting to bullshit with a musician you’re really into, and his laid back demeanor went hand in hand with the intimate set we had just witnessed. We also pointed out that this date of the tour wasn’t even listed on his website, as a possible explanation to the small turnout.
“Oh… shit, I guess that explains it!” He laughed.
We left Don Quixote’s that night relatively pleased. We were not only content that we had just seen and met one of the pre-eminent musicians in the California Garage Rock world, but also stoked that we had officially made Monday, for lack of a better expression, our bitch.
– Written by Alec Whitson