It was an inspirational night of music at Mercury Lounge on Saturday as both Stage and Gambit returned to performing after lengthy hiatuses.
Stage, the Dix Hills rockers once signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records, played their first concert in 10 years and showed that the fire that drove them as teenagers still exists and the eloquence of their ambitious lyrics still holds up.
Gambit, led by Rocky Point’s Lyle Kamesaki, played their first show in two years and proved that perhaps the times have finally caught up with the mix of indie-rock and dance music on thei debut, “Take Off and Landing.”
The crowd at the sold-out Mercury Lounge welcomed them both back with open arms, roaring their approval when Stage singer Ryan Star asked, “Is Long Island in the house?”
Yes, it was, with many fans screaming along with Star on the band’s anthems “The World Has Come Between Us” and “I Will Be Something.” The swaggering promise of that song still feels real, even though Star has already established himself as a major-label singer-songwriter.
Oddly, the passion from “Flag” also felt real, conjuring up the angst and worry of the days immediately following the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Star said that song and “Country Bleeding” were what Stage – Star, guitarist Greg Meyer, bassist Peter Anselmo, and drummer Justin Parker – was working on in a Manhattan studio the day the planes hit the World Trade Center buildings.
Stage, which recently released an EP called, well, “EP,” made its name on combining Pearl Jam grunge and Long Island scene post-hardcore with some big questioning themes, a mix that was on full display on “Jesus Was a Test Tube Baby.”
Gambit took that mix of influences and added some synthesizers and dance beats for its distinctive sound. Kamesaki credited Stage with making him want to be a musician and that shows more in the powerful performance than the music.
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The band, which also included Stage’s Justin Parker pulling double duty on drums, had a lighter, more upbeat approach, especially on the charming “This Town,” which turned into a sing-along, and “Alibi,” currently being used in the promos for the new series “iZombie” on The CW.
Kamesaki’s cleverness shines in the way he fit together his “Lovers in the Basement” with Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” with an assist from Dallin Applebaum on vocals, and in the way he turned OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” into a bit of metal stomp.
What Saturday night’s shows mean for either band remains unclear. At this point, they simply played out of a love of performing together. And that was more than enough for the lucky fans who were able to snag tickets.
STAGE SETLIST: Live Happy, Live With Anorexia / The World Has Come Between Us / I Don’t Know / I Will Be Something / Wake Up / Flag / Frog Prince / Jesus Was a Test Tube Baby / Crazy When She Cries
GAMBIT SETLIST: Change in the Feel / Maybe / Things Aren’t So Bad / Ask Yourself / All the Time in the World / Alibi / Lovers in the Basement/Straight Up (with Dallin Applebaum) / Ms. Jackson / This Town