Sensory Overload: Scrawl

From the 08/03/2011 edition

With a "soft open" three weekends ago, the bar now known as Ace of Cups stretched, yawned and rubbed the sand from its eyes. Drinks poured, DJs spun, people mingled and Columbus got its first sense of what Scrawl rocker and Surly Girl restaurateur Marcy Mays would do with the North Campus building that once housed Miani's and Sloopy's.

Last weekend Ace of Cups tested out its PA by hosting its first rock show, the equivalent of a shot of espresso and a splash of ice water to the face. Suddenly, the place was alive and kicking, packed with patrons from its Spartan interior to its even more Spartan patio. Renovations aren't complete - they haven't built a stage yet, for one thing - but that didn't keep musicians from setting up on the floor and wilding out.

Appropriately, Mays' legendary indie rock trio Scrawl was on hand to headline her bar's big debut.

I don't use the term "legendary" lightly. Mays, Sue Harshe and their procession of drummers have been banging away since the mid-'80s, a time when indie rock was called college rock and starting a successful band demanded more gumption than downloading some loop software and throwing the results on Bandcamp.

Scrawl toured hard, garnered rave reviews worldwide and broke bread with other legends of their day. More importantly, they cranked out transcendent high-powered jangle-pop. And while Mays and Harshe have continued to contribute quality work in bands like Fort Shame and Birds of Hair, Scrawl remains their enduring legacy.

That legacy was only amplified Saturday. Backed by fellow music scene lifer Jovan Karcic on drums - he's carried the torch for Carolyn O'Leary and Dana Marshall during Scrawl's recent resurgence - they careened through songs that have stood the test of time.

Karcic's drumming mostly stayed out of the way as Mays and Harshe traded impassioned melodies and weaved a consuming blanket of guitar and bass.

They tapped into a special chemistry, lending Scrawl's songs extra appeal that extended beyond the band's mastery of their genre. This music conjured a sense of close friends reconvening to laugh, bitch and commiserate. These were real songs about real situations performed by real people - an enjoyable beginning to a really promising bar.