Consciously or not, Merchandise has learned how to perform to a room’s strength. Playing a show through a crappy PA in a storage unit? Turn up the distortion and embrace the fuzz. Playing an outdoor festival’s mainstage? Ditch the thrift-store drum machine and buy fancy knockoff Coldplay jackets. Instead of pandering to its expanding listenership, the Tampa five-piece has restlessly mined the rich corners of ’80s alternative music for inspiration. In the past three years, Merchandise’s releases have traced its transformation from an independent punk outfit to a 4AD-backed, backward-looking alt-pop group. Gone is the noisy veneer and the sprawling outros—the band’s lyrics are decipherable, its hooks more precise. But despite its more polished sound, Merchandise hasn’t sacrificed melody or the live energy that propelled it from the house-show scene to the festival circuit. Merchandise performs with Ninos du Brasil at 8 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $13–$15. (202) 667-4490. blackcatdc.com.