There’s no shame in enjoying a dingy college bar with your buddy’s band rambling through a set of well-known covers over a fuzzy sound system. You just don’t expect that sort-of-rehearsed cover band to be We Are Scientists playing in Williamsburg. Wednesday night – supported by Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange, and (when not awkwardly facing the corner) Aaron Pfenning of Rewards – the Brooklyn-based duo loosely bumbled through all ten songs off Weezer’s 2001 The Green Album, before closing with their “two favorite Weezer songs.”
The evening was rife with sheepish grins between lead singer Keith Murray and Hynes – who supported on lead guitar – as the two dropped chords and lyrics. Whatever missteps were made along the way didn’t deter the enthusiastic crowd, which was small enough that when Pfenning offered to buy a drink for whomever could predict the two encore songs, you could easily hear someone yell, “Aaron, you don’t have any money.” No one else ventured a response.
The band kicked off with “Don’t Let Go,” omitting a few lyrics at the beginning, but picking things up as Hynes deftly plowed through the guitar solos and Murray did his best vibrato-ed Rivers Cuomo impression. “Photograph” began a trend of performances a bit more discordant on harmonies and accompanying vocals than the originals, but that just fit even more with the boozy, garage band feel of the evening. As Murray put it at the end of the night, “Well, those are all the Weezer songs we kind of know.”
Indeed, after a sped-up rendition of “Hash Pipe” and a faithful take on “Island in the Sun” – where they made the unfortunate decision to let Pfenning mumble his way through a solo – the band asked the audience for help remembering what song came next. “We know it,” said bassist Chris Cain, not altogether convincingly. “We just want to make sure you do.”
The group jocularly raced their way through the rest of the album, reminding everyone how succinct and efficient the original songs were. “Glorious Day” stood out, and “Smile” featured a drenched-in-sweat Hynes tearing through a great solo.
The tight-knit formula first attracted We Are Scientists to The Green Album: ten high-energy songs, almost all under three minutes. Both Murray and bassist Cain have said that the formula for We Are Scientists’ latest album, Barbara, was based on their admiration of Green. After the show, Hynes told Cover Me that he and Murray had both loved the album for a long time, and it only took a few rehearsals to throw the set together.
Without going much over the album’s actual 28:20 minute running time, the group closed the set and launched into the encore, with Hynes taking over on vocals. While a lesser vocalist than Murray, it’s pretty hard to mess up his first choice: “Pork and Beans.” Hynes then wrapped up with “my favorite Weezer song,” which surprisingly turned out to be “We Are All on Drugs.” Murray summed up the evening best when he thanked the audience for coming out: “This is a pretty weird thing to come to.”
The Green Album:
Don’t Let Go
Island in the Sun
Pork and Beans
We Are All on Drugs