• Guilty Guide

Above the Crust, Under the Stars

An unexpected compromise to the basement drove 30.9 The Crust Present’s premier event out into the backyard. Surrounded by the splendor of suburban Jersey nature, a trove of petite critters and planted flora enveloped the gravel driveway that was now bustling with a crowd of eager music lovers.

With the string light lit stage set up in a hurry, A Painting of Us kicked off the night with utter caution. Keeping their levels low but spirits high, the trio struggled to deliver their indie/pop punk sound in a fashion that kept the crowd engaged, while not bringing too much attention the circumstance of where they were playing. The vocalist’s intonation was typical for their genre of music, with his ferocity toned down to an “inside voice” volume. He strummed away his custom Les Paul with ease, belting out a twangy succession of pop-punk patterns that were lightly glazed with a nice touch of reverb. The bassist struggled a bit with balancing his licks within the mix of guitar and drums, but given how hastily things had started, this way probably the result of startled nerves. With quick alterations between slapping, plucking, and conventional finger picking, the bassist's lines were eclectic and evoked a style akin to prog influenced alternative rock. Leaves on the trees fluttered from the touch of a passing breeze as the audience danced to the contained indie-punk A Painting of Us had to offer. As the band wrapped up, I went to a near by deli to get dinner, and one of the owners recognized the fatigue on my face. She asked if I’d just gotten off work. I wonder if writing and running around to shows counts as work.

The Second band goes by Fence, a high energy grunge rock outfit that dialed their amps a few decibels higher, certain they could get away with letting loose a bit more noise. Their lead singer played an aqua Fender, despite his strumming hand being encased in a cast, and screamed his vocals with the energy of what feels like a life time of pent up agony. Starting strong, the band toned their aggression down a bit for their second song, serenading with slow chords complimented by the somber textures of reverbed feedback that swelled through the open air. The ambiance was sentimental and powerful, appropriate for the wonder and novelty palpable during tonight’s outdoor concert. As the song came to an end and the singer tuned his guitar, the band played the end credits theme from Spongebob Squarepants, reinforcing everyone’s affable spirits. Closing their set with a Billy Ray Cyrus cover, the lead singer gingerly put down his talking machine, did a few calisthenics, and furiously galloped into the front of the crowd, inducing a passionate send off mosh.

The third band Use Big Words described themselves as an accessible indie-math rock outfit, and I can’t say their self-judgement is off. With the unique structure of having the drummer sing lead vocals, the group delivered a sweet blend of melodic indie songs seasoned with tight breaks and intricate phrases. The drummer’s voice was soft and inviting, and their guitarist almost exclusively used a board tapping play style; standard in math rock and varying styles of metal, he managed to pull off a form that was precise without being too technical or busy. Half way through the set, the band passed around a bag full of free LED fidget spinners, decked out with small Bluetooth speakers. If there was one way to win over the crowd, this would be it, but from the first song several people could be heard singing along, line for line. A pond of strobing rainbow light glowed under the night sky as merry music fans fawned over their flashing accessories; Use Big Words kept it succinct and simple, spreading splendid joy closing out the night.

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