Cougar @ Mercury Lounge, 11/22/09

Like a good stretch after a long workout, COUGAR‘s Sunday jam at Mercury Lounge smoothed out a raucous weekend. Chiseled out of wintry Wisconsin in 2003, COUGAR is the latest prog-rock outfit worth a listen. These five Madison natives meld two guitars, a bass, various electronics, and a drum set to create what they describe as “Emergency Rock”: what happens when you take the efficiency and purpose of an emergency procedure and apply it to music. Yet the colloquial understanding of the term “emergency” does not suit the uber-chill nature of a COUGAR show.

In one line across the stage there is no ‘front man’ in this sociocracy; an open format that treats the audience to an equal view of each band member. In one vignette, drummer D.H. Skogen is a-flutter with flailing arms, hand towels draped on parts of the drum kit, and the shudder of light bouncing off the cymbals. In another screen shot, Aaron Sleator jolts songs like “Rhinelander” with loops, defibrilator beats, and other assorted sounds emanating from his table-top setup of electronic goodies. Memorable moments include the crowd’s exuberance when COUGAR played “Stay Famous” as well as the band’s throwback to an older recording in which bassist Todd Hill roused his upright bass, unsheathed his bow, and rowed the crowd into audible bliss. The only real emergency is that the Mercury Lounge show marked the end of their six-week tour. Ring the alarm.

Nicole Velasco

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