Vocalist-guitarist Erik Sanden looks so happy and comfortable onstage, he doesn’t seem to realize he’s working. “I had a dream last night” he says, “that Barack Obama gave me a big kiss on the forehead and told me it’s gonna be OK.” He grins like he’s joking, but the band’s stage presence is so goofy and carefree, supernatural pre-show reassurance from the president-elect can’t really be ruled out as the cause.
Buttercup are in full bar-band mode tonight, balancing the light-headed giddiness of their airy harmonies and “bahbahbahs” with a bottom-heavy mix and overcoming equipment problems through pure energy. Bassist Odie, with cowboy hat and braided goatee, provides the rhythmic momentum to propel the band through a lengthy but quick-moving set list while Sanden jigs, kneels, lays down on the stage, and bats playfully at a low-hanging light. The mic stand keeps falling over, and the vocals keep cutting out. At one point, Sanden simply shrugs and throws the microphone aside. Guitarist Joe Reyes solos and more than takes up the slack.
On Kinks cover “Alcohol,” Sanden lets the audience scream the chorus: “Who thought I would fall a slave to demon alcohol?” He switches to a megaphone and runs through the audience to stand up on the bar. For some reason, this isn’t their closing number, but the show never anticlimaxes. A ferocious take on Tragically Hip’s “Poets” is damn-near mosh-worthy, and following last call, Sanden packs the stage for closer “’68.”
“Everyone get the fuck up here!” he yells, and most of the other musicians on the night’s bill, as well as some of the audience members, join the band onstage. If the sound cuts out again, everyone’s too busy shouting and jumping, writhing too deep in the throes of demonic possession, to notice.