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Drug Rug @ Mercury Lounge
February 26, 2009

Written by John Proctor




“Yeah, we love that one.”

This was Sarah’s reaction after their show Thursday when I mentioned that I’d once heard Drug Rug, the duo comprised of her and boyfriend Tommy, compared to Sonny and Cher. Tommy does, after all, share the porn-star moustache. Perhaps she would have preferred hearing them compared to Ike & Tina, but they’re a bit too fey. Dolly and Porter? Nah, too loud. Sid and Nancy? Too nice. John and Yoko? Too American. At any rate, romantically linked musical acts generally inspire polar reactions – either we empathize with the fact that they’re so in love or so fucked up (or so in love and so fucked up), or we pour scorn upon them and their coupleness as mere showmanship.

Their meeting and partnership is fodder for the rock and roll romantic though. After meeting at the fabled Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts while she was doing sound and he was tending bar, they set off on their personal and musical path together as Drug Rug, recording their poppy, singalongy tunes on lo-fi equipment in their kitchen, then having their friends produce them, and finally bringing the each musical nugget of love out to their live shows for the world to hear.

Their 2007 self-titled debut is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality, but the best of the nine tunes rises springs “The Sound Along”), chugs (“Day I Die” and “Walden”), or jaunts (“Winter Time”) along to rise above the relative sameness of the rest of the album, telling of the couple’s love for nature, music, and each other of course. Their voices harmonize well, and in a fairly traditional way – Tommy’s is the straight voice, retaining a fairly plain, steady pitch while Sarah goes in some pretty wild tangents, running the gamut from Joanna Newsom in her more ponderous moments to a shriek almost on par with Atari Teenage Riot’s Hanin Elias (minus the anarchist politics).

Last week they finished off a tour along the eastern seaboard and gulf coast at Merucry Lounge. When I got there the opener, Viva Viva, were just going on. I believe they were tagalongs from the Boston scene and were mostly forgettable except for the third song of their set that sounded like an early Tom Petty or Faces outtake, and the vocalist/guitarist asking the soundman between songs, “Uh, can you adjust the sound to make me more on key? And sexier?” It reminded me of seeing woefully underrated Midlake opening for the New Pornographers in 2007, when after a few mercy claps from the audience their singer declared, “We don’t need your sympathy!” then after a round of the crickets chirping he followed up with “OK, we need your sympathy.”

Tommy & Sarah seemed to consciously compensate for their own diminutive proportions by employing a burly rhythm section that looked like they were on hired from the WWE, which played to their strengths as for the most part they kept the show trucking along at the chugging beat that is the hallmark of the best tunes from the aforementioned self-titled 2007 debut. The highlight of the show for me personally was when they played “Winter Time,” the chirpy fingerpicked gem that’s been the soundtrack of the last month for me. And it wasn’t just me – I swear the girl next to me slipped in and out of a new trance with each song, and there were plenty of couples looking to grab ahold of that lovin’ felling Tommy and Sarah were throwing at them.


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