This was a tough call. Originally, I'd planned to catch New York Rifles's return to the Red Room this night. They'd kicked some serious ass when I saw them back in July, and this night's bill also featured equally ass-kicking local bands the Hand and the Bare Bones. At the last minute, however, I opted to check out this show at the Venue, which featured four bands that I'd never encountered before and Hotel Chelsea, whom I hadn't seen in a while. After all, it kinda defeats the purpose of this blog if I just write about the same bands over and over and over.
I counted a little over forty people when I got down to the Venue around 8 pm. About half of that crowd would leave as the night went on, but those folks may have just had school or work in the morning (the audience seemed comprised largely of teenagers with a few parents tossed in). Hopefully, it wasn't the music that drove them away.
First up was My Young Dreamer, a young pop-rock band from Meridian. I missed a bit of their set, but what I caught sounded promising. Their solid groove and friendly, confident stage presence put across some smart, catchy songs. I especially appreciated "Be a Man So I Don't Have To," about a guy hoping that his girlfriend will take the axe to their dying relationship. Frontman Jake Haley and guitarist Michael Pease's clear vocals didn't lean too hard on the stereotypical pop-punk whine. An attempted sing-along fell flat, but they shouldn't let that discourage them. If they can keep this up, folks should come around eventually.
After My Young Dreamer came Hotel Chelsea, who sounded in fine, thunderous form from Ryan Sampson's winning bellow and Red Kubena's searing solos to Mikey Rootnote and Chris Devino's freight-train bass and drums. They played so well, in fact, that I couldn't help but wonder at the crowd's muted response. What, did their Ritalin prescriptions need adjusting? Anyway, a highlight of the set came when Kubena and Sampson briefly discussed which song to play for their closer. Kubena would only hear of one option: the self-explanatory "Sampson is a F*ck." No points for guessing which song they finally settled on.
Next up was Citizen, whose five members hail from Michigan and Ohio. Their take on pop-punk had a slightly more hardcore feel that the preceding two acts' did: Eric Hamm's thick, twangy bass, Cray Wilson's pounding drums and Nick Hamm and Ryland Oehler's grinding riffs framed Mat Kerekes's rousing scream. In spite of the extra abrasiveness, however, they still sounded plenty tuneful. A nice combination.
Mixtapes from Cincinnati, OH played next. With their sharp melodies, sharper lyrics, unstoppable drumming, buzzsaw riffs, locked-in rapport and playful, hyperactive stage act, this group would've made the show worthwhile all by themselves. They bounced, twirled, spat at each other, chucked their guitars into the air (not quite intentionally). Grand fun.
The Albany-based band Aficionado closed out the show. You know that an emo/prog-leaning rock band is doing something right when their lineup includes a flautist and they still don't sound like a bunch of prissy crybabys (well, not too much, anyway). Indeed, Laura Carrozza's serene flute parts and soothing vocals helped put the music over by tempering the melodrama of Nick Warchol's agonized moan. In the man's defense, though, I should add that his thoughtful lyrics helped with that too. Meanwhile, the elegant guitar lines, grounding bass and pulverizing drums demolished any lingering reservations that this normally emo/prog-phobic reviewer had.
After Aficionado finished, I headed over to the Red Room. There's something to be said for shows starting late, sometimes: I got there in time to catch all of New York Rifles' set. Their buzzing, stinging guitar, hooky basslines, quick drumming and can't-believe-I-haven't-heard-this-a-million-times-but-now-I-want-to songs sounded even better than I remembered. It probably helped that there was a slightly larger crowd to see, hear and dance to them this time around.
You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.