When I first saw the flyers for Mercury Carter’s latest slate of shows, it wasn’t anything that I could even fathom. Mercury, whom I consider a good friend, never sells short in his art, being sure to inspire wonder and surprise even in his promos.
Created by Fart.pdf, the imagery on the flyer is inspired by 1970s sci-fi comics, a decade often used to draw comparisons to Mercury’s own artistry.
However, for these shows, Mercury is channeling one of the most experimental artists of the 1990s and arguably our lifetime: Bjork. On the flyer for the June 11 kickoff on this tour of Bjork tributes around Charlotte, he’s facing off with robotic, one-eyed monsters. This felt personal.
For those who are new here, Bjork is an experimental, jazz-electronica-pop legend from Iceland whose most notable song to the layman listener would be “Venus as a Boy” (Google it!).
I get why Mercury went the Bjork route, as the aesthetics of the ’90s and early 2000s have been in the bloom of a renaissance through a mainstream resurgence that includes remakes, reboots and the return of trends like low-rise jeans.
Mercury highlights an aspect of that era in a way that feels true to him — the sound being very avant-garde and abstract. Even Bjork’s taste in fashion and glam is truly one with which Mercury aligns. Mercury has a genius yet intentional way of creating an experience for his listeners, and I know this would not be your tribute band show.
The first show was at Petra’s, the one that featured the one-eyed monster and robot on the flyer, was scheduled for Saturday, June 11. The set design — created by visual artist Quynh Vu — included a beautifully abstract black-and-white backdrop that featured cloud-shaped designs depicting clouds shaped as flowers, hands holding knives and a “Maschere Piange” (thank you, Google), among other things.
Sochko started with an ethereal and meditative sound that led by a crescendo and went into what sounded like spacey reggae. SMTHNG gave a heavier set, with smokey drum-and-bass and sampled song flips. Both balance out the different aspects of their experimental expertise and still gave us something to dance to.
As more people started to fill the room from outside, I made sure I had enough of Petra’s tasty-ass Mango Punch to last me the duration of the show, because I knew once the time came, I would be transfixed and didn’t want to have to worry about refills.
Mercury came to the stage in all of his cascading-curls glory, wearing a cropped graphic tee, the most fire pair of Girbauds and a pair of sneakers. Accompanied by the show’s openers for the set, he went into the first Bjork song and brought all of his vocals with him. He paid homage to songs like “Wanderlust” and “Hyper-Ballad” in a way that would certainly knock Bjork’s socks off.
I was enamored with Mercury’s performance because this wasn’t a corporate event sponsored by the city, there wasn’t a full band, and he wasn’t dressed in full couture glam as I’ve seen at some of his most notable performances locally and internationally have been.
This was raw. This was Mercury’s shit.
He had created an experience that started in his mind, continuing to break barriers but in his own way and paying homage in a way only Mercury Carter could do. I overheard people who were enlightened by his performance, not knowing who Bjork was and loudly proclaiming their intentions to give a timeless artist fresh ears. When I shared that with Mercury post-show, he looked at me with a satisfied smile and said, “That was the point.”
But, if they hadn’t already, they really need to be checking out Mercury.
Mercury Carter has four more shows in this series within the next few months including at Goodyear Arts on Saturday, June 25, and at Snug Harbor on July 30. Each one will be different from the last, including a main event at the Mint Museum on August 3 and an acoustic jazz birthday concert at The Evening Muse on September 23. Opening artists will include Nia J, Beste Toparlak and Ariel Ringel.
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