The Men, Licks, The Follies, Sugar Milk @ Saint Vitus

The Men, Licks, The Follies, Sugar Milk @ Saint Vitus

The Men at Saint Vitus (photo by Ray Rusinak)

 

I came to know of the band The Men via their 2014 album, Tomorrow’s Hits, which I had no idea upon first (or second) listen that the rootsy rock and roll on that album was a complete departure from what the band was known for. But me being me, I soon did a deep dive into The Men’s prior releases and was quickly introduced to the real The Men. Albums like New Moon and Open Your Heart, the two immediate predecessors to Tomorrow’s Hits are loud, noisy, abrasive and wonderful. As it turns out, the group— Nick Chiericozzi, Mark Perro, Kevin Faulkner, and Rich Samis—while certainly garnering success with the rootsy sounds of Tomorrow’s Hits, have always been a dirty and gritty kind of band and all of their subsequent releases since then have more and more reverted back to the noise and anarchy of their earlier works. 

 

And their latest, New York City, released on Friday morning was no exception. Having an opportunity to give the album at least a couple of spins throughout the day, I knew right from the get go that the night’s show was going to be one of epic proportions. The kind of show where if you forget your protective ear plugs, you will have ringing in your ears for quite some time afterwards.

 

 

Billed as an early show and with three other bands on the bill, I arrived at Saint Vitus around 7:30pm and was more than happy to find that the room was quite warm and cozy after having just walked down Manhattan Ave in the close to 0 degree temperatures we had on Friday night. The first two bands up were Sugar Milk followed by The Follies. Both bands played short and enjoyable sets. The third band of the evening was Licks who put on a fiery set of unadulterated garage rock. With charismatic lead singer and guitarist, Skunk, the band was a perfect warmup for what was to follow.

 

Taking the stage just short of 10pm, Nick Chiericozzi and The Men ripped right into “Hard Livin’,” the opening track on the new album. Immediately, you could feel the intense emotion coming out of those amplifiers. Giving “Hard Livin’” a full on Replacements treatment. Only in this case it was The Replacements when they weren’t distracted by being “The Replacements.” Just shear in your face grab you where it hurts rock and roll.

 

They would keep the pace going with another New York City track, “Peace Of Mind,” before offering up their song “Crime” from 2016’s Devil Music collection. Three songs into their set and the four members of The Men were at full throttle, blowing the doors off of Saint Vitus. 

 

The Men performing

The Men at Saint Vitus

 

Staying the course, not surprisingly, we would get a steady diet of the new material from New York City mixed with a smattering of older songs throughout the hour and change set. And let me tell you, the new material more than holds up when it comes to presenting a fast paced, full frontal assault on your senses. Granted that there is not a whole lot of degrees of separation between seminal punk rock bands, but throughout their set you could easily close your eyes at various points and imagine the aforementioned Replacements, or The Ramones, Johnny Thunders, The Dead Boys or MC5. The Men managed to bring back the dirty, scuzzy, rat infested New York City of the late 70’s and early 80’s for one frigid night in Greenpoint. Things have changed quite a lot since those salad days (HA HA) of punk rock but fortunately, we still have bands like The Men who can bring that pre-Giuliani feel to the stage.

 

Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)

 

SUGAR MILK

Sugar Milk performing

Sugar Milk performing

Sugar Milk performing

Sugar Milk performing

 

THE FOLLIES

The Follies performing

The Follies performing

The Follies performing

The Follies performing

 

LICKS

Licks performing

Licks performing

Licks performing

Licks performing

Licks performing

 

THE MEN

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

The Men performing

 

 

 

Ted Leo, Tami Hart @ Union Pool

Ted Leo, Tami Hart @ Union Pool

Ted Leo at Union Pool (photo by Ray Rusinak)

 

Williamsburg music venue, Union Pool, has been hosting a weekly free concert series every Tuesday and this week’s artist was Ted Leo with opening support act Tami Hart. With early sets and free drink tickets at the door, these Tuesday nights have been a perfect way to get out on a weekday night and have some fun. (You can read about last week at the Pool with Downtown Boys and Oceanator right here.) It looks like these shows will continue through at least the month of February as well, so if you find yourself with nothing to do on a Tuesday evening, do yourself a favor and head on over to the corner of Union and Meeker.

 

I arrived shortly after 7pm and not surprisingly found the line to get into the room wrapped around the outside patio area. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and I was inside in almost no time. The trouble was, so were another 200 or so people.  The words “packed crowd” are often used exaggeratedly to describe a venue for a show, in this case I use no hyperbole.  The room was shoulder to shoulder, “one can barely move” packed.

 

Tami Hart and her band (Adrienne Lloyd on bass and Kate Ryan on drums along with Hart on guitar) took the stage promptly at 8pm. Quite a cute touch was the presence of Ryan’s two pre-school children waiting in the wings stage right. Hart and her bandmates proceeded to provide us with an enjoyable set of indie flavored country rock. As a former southerner presently residing in New York City, Tami’s set certainly presented a fitting cross section of both down home country mashed up with the grit and dirt of city life. The bulk of the set consisted of songs from the upcoming EP, Thanks For Saying Hi, out in April.

[Editor’s note: I saw Tami Hart play numerous times in the early aughts as a “baby gay” and her two albums, 2000’s No Light In August and 2002’s What Passed Between Us remain personal favorites to this day. Both are available on Bandcamp and I highly recommend them- KH.]

 

 

While setting up his equipment on stage, Leo joked with the crowd about various subjects, one of which was the ominous temperature in the room. Upon completing his stage crew duties he informed us that he would be right back after he changed out of his mock turtleneck and sweater. Returning shortly thereafter in just a button down short sleeve shirt, Leo prefaced the evening with a warning to the crowd that he had no idea where things were going to go but since this was a free show, we were going to have to live with the results. He then jumped right into it with his usual set opener, “Nothing Much To Say.”

 

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo

 

Leo proceeded to share numerous stories and anecdotes throughout the evening since, as he explained, the crowd was being so respectful and quiet while he tuned, and the silence on stage drove him crazy, so he felt obliged to ramble on. Of course nobody in the very hot room minded all that much. At one point, I believe after “Building Skyscrapers in The Basement,” he stressed how much of a fan he was of the Irish folk tradition, going as far to say that it might be the biggest influence on his songwriting style. That and whiskey drinking of course.

 

Moving forward, he offered up a choice to the crowd, the set could go forward in a more traditional Ted Leo kind of way, or it could venture deep into “the well” of weirdness. In any event, almost unanimously the crowd chose the latter. And since we were pre-warned, he delved into a traditional Irish folk song about an Irish labor leader done acapella and in full Irish brogue.

 

The rest of Leo’s set was a career spanning retrospective replete with numerous Pharmacist songs, solo efforts, covers and even a Chisel tune (“The Town Crusher”) thrown in for good measure. One particular highlight for me was his performance of “Counting Down The Hours” from 2004’s Pharmacist album Shake The SheetsA song which he rarely plays and one which he stated he’d never done without a band before, he was somewhat concerned about the more raucous lead guitar parts, but to these ears (at the very least) he nailed it.

 

 

Upon the completion of one of his newer songs, “I’m Like You,” he stated that this was the part of the show where he would normally leave the stage since the show was technically over, but in this case he was just going to hang on for one more. Offering up a cover version of Scottish artist and activist Hamish Imlach’s “Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice”.

 

All in all, it was a fantastic set of new, old, familiar and not so much. Leo provided a perfect combination of both musicianship and levity to make for a well spent Tuesday evening in a sweltering hot and cramped room of friends and strangers.

 

Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)

 

TAMI HART

Tami Hart performing

Tami Hart performing

Tami Hart performing

Tami Hart performing

Tami Hart performing

 

TED LEO

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

Ted Leo performing

 

 

 

Jeff Rosenstock & Laura Stevenson, Gladie @ Bowery Ballroom

Jeff Rosenstock & Laura Stevenson, Gladie @ Bowery Ballroom

Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson at Bowery Ballroom (photo by Ray Rusinak)

 

It was November 2019 when Jeff (Rosenstock) and Laura (Stevenson) unexpectedly released an EP of Neil Young covers called Still Young on Polyvinyl Records. At the time, Rosenstock stated that although he’d always considered Young to be an artist that he “should” like, he’d never really spent much time with his catalog. That is until his friend and sometimes collaborator Laura Stevenson encouraged him to do so. The resulting four song EP turned out to prove that Rosenstock’s sometimes scraggly voice was quite well suited to Young’s tunes, and of course Stevenson on the sweeter lead vocals, as well as harmonies, made this an ideal project. Anyway, we got a small glimpse as to what they could do with this material live when the duo did their duets of “Through My Sails” and “Harvest Moon” at Rosenstock’s December 2019 residency at Trans-Pecos.

 

 

Subsequently, Rosenstock moved to LA, Stevenson started a family and the world came to a stand still for nearly two years. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue and into the black (bonus points if you see what I did there), the two dropped a second EP of Young covers to the complete surprise of their fans. Younger Still arrived on streaming services in November of this year and with it, news of an impending limited run tour was announced. Hitting select cities on the West Coast first, then the Midwest and finally the North East, Rosenstock and Stevenson planned to do a duets tour combining the Young material along with individual solo nuggets from each of their catalogs. 

 

The shows in LA, San Francisco and Joshua Tree went off perfectly only to have Stevenson subsequently come down with Covid and the Midwest portion of the tour having to be postponed. (Those dates have since been rescheduled for February.) Fortunately though, last weekend’s North East segment of the tour went off without a hitch, playing Boston, NY, Philly and Woodstock on consecutive nights. On this leg they were joined by opening act Gladie.

 

Speaking of Gladie, their opening set was a perfect prelude for Rosenstock and Stevenson. They released their second LP Don’t Know What You’re In Until You’re Out last month and if you haven’t heard it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s fantastic. Augusta Koch and Matt Schimelfenig have hit it out of the park with this on; It’ll most certainly be in my 2022 top 10 for the year. Joined on stage on bass for this show was Koch’s friend and former bandmate in Cayetana, Allegra Anka.  After opening up their set with “When You Leave The Sun” from 2020’s debut LP Safe Sins, Koch and the rest of Gladie ripped through a healthy dose of material off of the new one culminating with a rocking hard version of “Born Yesterday.” I’ve had the pleasure to catch Gladie a handful of times this year and their progression as a unit is mind blowing. By all means you all should be paying attention to this band. 

 

Gladie

 

After a brief break between sets (which saw Rosenstock and Stevenson doing their own setup on stage), the two came out to the walk up sounds of South Park’s Eric Cartman’s rousing rendition of “O Holy Night.” Following some tuning and a little back and forth banter, the two started things up with what I find to be the most interesting of their Neil Young covers. (Full disclosure…I am a full on Neil geek. I consider him amongst the Pantheon of songwriters, so I am by no means objective when it comes to his body of work). “Razor Love” is a relatively obscure lilting love tome from Young’s 2000 release Silver and Gold. With the opening drum machine beats and Rosenstock’s strained upper register on the opening verse followed by Stevenson’s gorgeous harmonies on the chorus, it was very clear from the get go that we were in for quite a treat.

 

Without missing a beat, the pair went right into “Comes A Time,” the same segue which they use on the EP. Picking the vibe of the room up at least a notch, by the time the first chorus of “oh this old world keeps spinning ‘round” kicks in, the entire venue was singing along. Now, for anyone who’s ever been to a Rosenstock show, the crowd singing along to every word should come as no surprise. But this was a Neil Young song being serenaded back, not Rosenstock’s own lyrics.  Not only that, but this song was clearly written and originally released years before most of this crowd was even a glimmer in their parent’s eyes. So that was pretty cool. By the way, Stevenson absolutely NAILED the original vocal harmonies which were initially sung by Nicolette Larson on Neil’s Comes A Time album. (I warned you about my Neil geekiness.)

 

Jeff Rosenstock

 

Next up we would get Rosenstock’s “9/10,” his “classic” from 2018’s POST, with its love song lament of riding the subway stoned “thinking of you.” Of course Stevenson sang on the original album version so no surprises there as to her harmonies. She would then pull one out of the deep cuts bag of tricks with “A Shine To It” off of her 2010 album, thoughtfully called A RecordThe duo would follow this recipe of doing two Neil tunes followed by a Jeff song and a Laura song, rinse and repeat. Ultimately we would get to hear all eight of the songs from the two Neil Young EPs.

 

I would also be totally remiss if I didn’t bring up the stage banter that would persist throughout the evening. Stage banter which I can honestly say was almost as entertaining and important to the overall show as the actual music itself. This duo has known each other for a very long time after all, going back to their teenage years in Long Island. They know and appreciate each other as only life long friends can. The back and forth between them throughout the evening was oftentimes hilarious. It was slapstick comedy right out of the Burns and Allen mold to the point I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if they closed the evening off with Jeff calling across the stage to Laura, ‘Say good night Laura.” For those of you who don’t know who or what I’m talking about, Google that shit. 

 

Laura Stevenson

 

The main set would conclude with a couple of vintage Young tunes from the mid 70’s, “Through My Sails” from Zuma and the epic “Ambulance Blues” from On The Beach. Upon leaving the stage the crowd immediately began chanting like it normally would at a sporting event. Except in this case instead of “LET’S GO SO AND SO!” it was “HEALTHY BABY!” a reference to a comment that Stevenson had made earlier in the show that after all of them (herself, husband and baby) having Covid, they were all healthy now. Nonetheless, this chant brought the duo out again pretty quickly, both with embarrassed smiles plastered to their faces. 

 

And the adoring crowd were treated to a two song encore which I’m not sure anyone would have guessed. First up it was a blast from the past with Bomb The Music Industry’s Wednesday Night Drinkball” followed by “Rockin’ In The Free World”  which just might be one of the most perfect encore closers ever written. It was also the only Neil Young tune performed which was not part of either of the EPs. All in all what a wonderful evening of true friendship, fantastic camaraderie, funny rambling banter and most of all, beautiful music.

 

 

Scroll down for setlist, fan shot vids, pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)

 

Setlist: Razor Love*, Comes A Time*, 9/10+, A Shine To It^, After the Gold Rush*, Hey Babe*, Living Room NY^, The Beauty of Breathing+, Harvest Moon*, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere*, Emily In Half^, All Ages Shows%, Through My Sails*, Ambulance Blues* Encore: Wednesday Night Drinkball%, Rocking’ In the Free World*

*Neil Young cover

+Jeff Rosenstock original

^Laura Stevenson original

% Bomb The Music Industry! original

 

From Philly 12/17/22

 

GLADIE

 

 

JEFF ROSENSTOCK & LAURA STEVENSON

 

 

 

The Hold Steady, Proper @ Brooklyn Bowl

The Hold Steady, Proper @ Brooklyn Bowl

The Hold Steady at Brooklyn Bowl (photo by Ray Rusinak)

 

The Hold Steady have been at it for 19 years now. Upon the demise of Minneapolis underground punk rock band Lifter Puller, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler moved to Brooklyn and formed The Hold Steady in 2003. But unlike most of the bands who were playing around and about Williamsburg at the time—instead of recycling The Velvets and Television—The Hold Steady modeled themselves after the sounds of Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick and of course early day Springsteen.

 

Three of the four founding members of the band, Finn and Kubler along with bassist, Galin Polivka, have had numerous ups and downs over the years but nonetheless have remained steady throughout. Drummer Bobby Drake and keyboardist Franz Nicolay joined the band in 2005, just in time for their sophomore Separation Sunday LP. Nicolay would unfortunately leave in 2010 with the band then adding Memphis guitarist Steve Selvidge to fill the void. With the addition of Selvidge, the guitar interplay between him and Kubler added a new dimension to THS which was quite a lot of fun to experience.  However, I will say it out loud, I for one missed the keyboards during the years where Franz was on hiatus from the band.

 

The Hold Steady performing

 

But alas, Nicolay rejoined the band in 2016 and in my humble opinion, the six piece Hold Steady has never sounded better. With the two guitars (does anyone really count Finn as a guitarist?) and keyboards, the band sounds fuller and significantly tighter than ever. 2016 also brought about the new tour concept which the band initiated in Chicago and Brooklyn with the three and four night residencies in each city. Chicago’s “Chicago Seemed Wired Last Nightand Brooklyn’sMassive Nights  have become the model for the band to set up shop in a given city for a designated stretch of time and do abbreviated residencies. In effect, the band now has their fans travel to them rather than being on the road traversing from city to city for extended touring. This model has worked quite well for them. 

 

Which brings me to last Thursday night at Brooklyn Bowl, home to Massive Nights ever since its inception in 2016. With a rotating cast of opening acts which are rarely announced much more than a week before the show dates, this year’s residency had Laura Stevenson on Wednesday 11/30, Proper. on Thursday 12/1, Gladie on Friday 12/2 and The Smiths Tribute Band on Saturday 12/3.

 

Night Two of Massive Nights started off with Brooklyn’s own Proper. I unfortunately arrived after their set was already half over but what I heard, I liked. Knowing very little about the band prior to seeing them, I was excited to hear them and get to know them. Particular highlights were the closer of their set, “A$AP Rocky Type Beat” and “Fucking Disgusting” both from 2019’s I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better. They will definitely be a band I keep an ear out for in the future. 

 

In years past The Hold Steady would take the stage to the backdrop intro music of Andy Williams’s “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of Year.” In addition to this being everyone’s grandmother’s favorite holiday classic, it also is a perfect slogan for Massive Nights because to many of the THS pilgrims, these four nights at Brooklyn Bowl truly do encapsulate the holidays.

 

The Hold Steady performing

 

The band opened things up on Thursday with a rousing version of “Denver Haircut,” the opening cut off of 2019’s masterful Thrashing Thru The Passion, which happens to be the first studio album to include all six of the current members of the band. Without missing a beat, frontman Finn and the rest of THS barreled their way through “Barfruit Blues,” “Magazines,” and “You Can Make Him Like You” before they finally took a moment to breathe. At this point saxophonist Stuart Bogie joined them on stage for “Separate Vacations,” an extra track from the super deluxe version of Heaven Can Wait.

 

As I’ve said already, this current six piece version of The Hold Steady sounds as good as any version of the band has ever sounded. The back and forth interplay on guitar between Kubler and Selvidge pushes each of these already masterful fret workers to heights they might never reach if they were merely playing by themselves. Added on top of that Nicolay’s festive meandering keyboard work along with the outstanding rhythm section of Drake and Polivka on drums and bass respectively and you have what comes across as a band that has more than hit its stride. A band that is in peak form and knows it. Each knowing what the other is going to do before they do it. And most importantly, each knowing exactly where the ever unpredictable Craig Finn is going to take them. This was so clear and evident throughout the ever rising emotions of Thursday’s set.

 

We would get another dozen or so songs before the night was over and with each successive tune the energy kept mounting and mounting. With Kubler’s guitar strum, followed by Nicolay’s piano riff and finally Bobby Drake’s pounding kick drum intro to “Constructive Summer” pushing Finn into the opening lyric of “Me and my friends are like the drums on “Lust for Life?” the crowd was more than ready for the exuberance which was to follow. A song which encapsulates the death of the American Dream as well as anything much more renowned writers have put to paper, the band rocked as hard as ever with its percussive backbeat and anthemic chorus of “we’re gonna build something, THIS SUMMER”  to which the crowd, of course sang each and every word.  The feeling of triumph which one gets from hearing this song in all its majesty is almost worth the price of admission alone. But then Finn sings “I tried to believe all the things that you said, But my friends that aren’t dying are already dead”  and you’re back to reality. A reality where Finn then sheds a little hope on us with the almost perfect lines:

 

Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer

I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher

Getting older makes it harder to remember we are our only saviors

We’re gonna build something, this summer

 

One of Finn’s and THS greatest attributes is to take hold of the crowd and carry them along on the climb up the mountain of what is a Hold Steady show. They manage to start the hike at what appears to be an already insurmountable altitude yet as the show and set progresses the energy and heights achieved just get higher and higher. On Thursday, by the time Finn kicked the band into the trifecta of “Sequestered In Memphis” followed by “Chips Ahoy!” and “Banging Camp” (once again joined onstage by Stuart Bogie) you’d feel like any other band was gearing up for that final push where the show was about to hit its crescendo just before its finale. Au contraire, mon frère. These guys were just getting started.

 

Video from Night Three

 

As the old saying goes, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” you get the same feeling when experiencing a Massive Nights show with THS. Make no mistake, they are a party band. The lyrics to their songs are rife with stories of excess and the tattered ruins of that very same excess. And the band itself is a testament to the harrowing results of said indulgences with their brief hiatus back in the early to mid teens a direct result of Kubler’s brush with pancreatitis. And despite their acts having cleaned up some over the years, they are still very much that party band. They still revel in whipping their fans into a frenzy, they still exalt with the (oft-times very lubricated) audience screaming back specific lyrics about overdoing it. But that’s all part of the act, an act to which the band has perfected down to a “T.”  So when you get to the point in the show and all of a sudden it’s snowing confetti and everyone around you is singing and dancing and hugging, it’s not surprising if one is taken back to an earlier place and time. A time when you were out with your friends, listening to your favorite bar band on a Saturday night and all was good in the world. That’s the kind of feeling that Massive Nights is all about.

 

Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)

 

Setlist: Denver Haircut, Barfruit Blues, Magazines, You Can Make Him Like You, Separate Vacations, Entitlement Crew, SIXERS, Sequestered In Memphis, Chips Ahoy!, Banging Camp, Lord I’m Discouraged, The Weekenders, Spices, Stuck Between Stations, Star 18, Don’t Let Me Explode, Constructive Summer, Hot Soft Light, Hostile Mass, Your Little Hoodrat Friend, Slapped Actress Encore: Citrus, Modesto Is Not That Sweet, Stay Positive, Killer Parties

 

PROPER.

Proper performing

Proper performing

Proper performing

Proper performing

 

THE HOLD STEADY

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

The Hold Steady performing

 

Oceanator, Queen of Jeans, Georgia Maq @ The Broadway

Oceanator, Queen of Jeans, Georgia Maq @ The Broadway

Oceanator at The Broadway (photo by Ray Rusinak)

 

By their own account, Elise Okusami and Oceantor have been on the road for seven separate tours this calendar year.  That’s a LOT of touring. Sharing the stage with such diverse acts as Pedro The Lion, PUP, Jeff Rosenstock, Laura Jane Grace and Tim Kashner to name just a few. They also toured the UK for their first time along with criss-crossing the States way more than any human should within one set of 365 days. 

 

This hectic and sometimes chaotic touring schedule finally came to a close last Saturday night with Oceanator’s headline homecoming gig at The Broadway. Support for this tour closing show came from the likes of Philadelphia’s Queen of Jeans who’d been on the road with Oceanator the last few weeks as well as added guest, Georgia Maq of Camp Cope who was passing through New York City on the way back to Australia from the UK. Oh, and on top of all of this Oceanator released a killer album in 2022 called Nothing’s Ever Fine, on Polyvinyl Records  which I’m sure will land on numerous best of lists this year (It’s firmly embedded in mine, that’s for sure).

 

As I’ve stated in the past, Oceanator is one of those enigmatic bands which just seems to get better and better every time you see them. Saturday night was certainly no exception to this standard. Opening the set up with the shoegazey instrumental from Nothing’s Ever Fine, “Morning,” Okusami and the rest of Oceantor (Dylan Lapointe on bass and Lou Hanman on drums) took what was already a piece which builds momentum and energy from start to finish to a whole other level, building it into a sonic crescendo which might have had ears bleeding upon its completion.

 

Oceanator performing

Oceanator 

 

Sticking to material from the new album, the next five songs were all from NEF, albeit not in the same sequence as they were presented on the LP. When the band kicked into the fuzzed out guitar intro of “The Last Summer” followed by Okusami’s breakneck recitation of the opening lines 

 

Neon signs, flashing by me and a 

Cherry coke and crumpled bag of french fries lying 

on the passenger seat 

Where you used to be 

One hand out the window 

watching Light play 

across the hood of my car 

from the streetlights passing by

 

One couldn’t help but reminisce about those teenage summer nights just driving around killing time looking for something to do. It was almost Springstonian in the song’s ability to capture that kind of moment.

 

 

 It wouldn’t be until well into the set when we’d get the slow burner “January 21” from the 2020 debut album, Things Never Said. Next up we were treated to a relatively rare song called “Average Joe” which was released on a Sub Pop compilation called The Eleventh Hour: Songs for Climate Justice followed by “Bad Brain Daze” from the new one. This song with Okusami ’s powerful staccato guitar strums filled in with Hanman’s pounding drum beat had the filled room jumping up and down right on cue.

 

The evening would close out with a demonic like sludgy demolition of my ear drums version of “In the Van” with its “Star Spangled Banner” guitar riffs and bottom heavy chugging rhythm backbone. Appropriately followed by the waltz like “Evening” with its translucent imagery of a hot humid summer’s night and the cicadas humming in the trees. And with that peaceful image in our heads the night was over only for us to soon be slapped back to the reality of the freezing cold winter’s air and the clanging of the M train as it passed over Broadway. 

 

Of course, there was more to the evening than Oceanator’s set. The last minute addition of Georgia Maq to the bill was a tremendous surprise to which I was elated to hear as Maq doesn’t make it to these parts very often. She did have a solo gig scheduled for the Spring of 2020 over at Trans-Pecos but we all know how that panned out. So having a chance to see her solo was truly an added treat. Being self admittedly jet lagged, sleep deprived and hung over, she treated us to a five song set of all new material interspersed with candid stories and tales which would certainly make most of our mother’s blush if they were to have heard them. All of that being said, the new songs were wonderful, especially “Brooklyn, Not This One,” “Neighbors” (about her lockdown friendship, wink wink, with her neighbor) and “They’ll Never Dance Like Us” (about her short lived relationship with an anti-vaxxer). NOTE:` As these were new songs, I am guessing at the song titles and probably have gotten them wrong. My apologies to Georgia for any inaccuracies. 

 

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq

 

Following Maq’s set was the Philadelphia band, Queen Of Jeans.  Another band that I’d heard of but was not familiar with their actual material. (Who can keep track of all these Philly bands these days anyway?) They opened up their set with the title track off of this year’s EP, Hiding In Place. As I would soon discover, played live, the band’s material comes off much more aggresive and loud than it dows on the poppier recorded versions. And truth be told, this was fine by me. Queen’s set was a nice mix of songs from the aforementioned EP as well as their 2019 LP, If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid. The band itself, composed of Miri Devora on lead vocals and guitar, Matti Glass on background vocals and lead guitar, Lou Hanman on bass and background vocals (is there any band that Lou doesn’t play with?) and Andrew Nitz on drums sounded great especially on “Only ObviousTo You,” a love gone wrong song, which started out slowly with Devora quietly singing in her waif-like style only to build into the climactic chorus of “love will always fuck you over” complete with Glass’ screeching guitar all the while flipping the audience the bird. 

 

All in all, I have to say that this was one of those special nights where all three acts were truly a pleasure to watch and hear as they performed not only heartfelt but vividly emotional story songs complete with fantastic musical accompaniment.    

 

Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)

 

GEORGIA MAQ

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

Georgia Maq performing

 

 

QUEEN OF JEANS

Queen of Jeans performing

Oceanator performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

Queen of Jeans performing

 

OCEANATOR

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing

Oceanator performing