Clownin' Around at M-- P--
New Brunswick doesn’t feel like a city. There’s no point to compare its short main streets, home to humble store fronts catering to an overbearing college community that casts a shadow over the brave locals who tolerate their overbearing presence, to the sprawling sidewalks of Manhattan. But I can’t help it. As a surrogate New Yorker, I’ve been spoiled by the manic energy that overpowers the soul when walking through New York’s productivity driven streets and avenues. A phantom force pushes you through the city’s sprawling splendor at a pace that both inspires and invigorates the heart. Whether heading to work, grabbing lunch, or meandering, the presence of other eager New Yorkers reminds you that nothing is superfluous; each step made is a conscious one, taking your body and mind further towards a destination teaming with meaning. With that frame of mind, I walked down George St. eager to relish in the art and community the New Brunswick basement scene had to offer.
Cheyenne Dan kicked off the night. A four-piece rock band that dished out some tight alt-pop tunes. Songs reminiscent of 60’s pop-rock were given a dash of grunge flare. Bouncy bass-lines got my foot tapping while the lead singer’s vocals stayed consistent with the key and flow of each song’s chord progression. The lead guitarist wasn’t shy about running through some hi-gain guitar solos; his guitar’s dry signal was ripe, perking up my neck hairs. The third track in their set had some emo-charm in the vocal delivery and driving muted down strokes, which transitioned nicely into some chill indie arpeggios. Style was swapped again as the tempo picked up with the next track, taking on a surf-power pop sound. The band closed their set with a funk-punk track that got me and some other people making comparisons to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More. A very tight and eclectic set for any alt-rock lovers.
Clown Baby took their time setting up, but the wait was worth the spectacular reveal of their stage arrangement. A mess of keyboards and controllers were standing tall, giving off the aura of DIY Kraftwerk. Visuals were displayed on a projector behind the band, playing content that ranged from art house clips to retro anime. A wet symphony of slow synth arps oozed from the PA; its sonic aesthetic reminded me of early 2000 synth-scapes. Buff Chiq, who I’d last seen perform her own brand of techno beats at Jones Beach, was providing backup vocals to several of the band’s tracks. Their sonic aesthetic is pretty much live Future Funk/City-Pop; a music genre born on the internet that remixes or reinterprets 80's lounge/dance music from Japan. Live guitar and bass were thrown into the mix, with some clean and slick phrases used to spice up the already groovy synth work. The song that really captivated the crowd satirized car commercials; footage of vintage Toyota adverts played in the background, as the room broke out into the chorus “I wanna role up in a Toyota - Carola”. The following track was called “Rearview”. The vibe was R&B, but a synth-pop groove and aesthetic was maintained. Each member of the group offered their vocal talents, with some possessing a nice deep register, and others with a minor tremor; regardless, the variety was welcomed, and it was obvious every member was invested. The song transitioned into a melody evocative of carnival jingles, which was paired whimsically with analogue footage of a carousal; I was enchanted. While the wobbly synth and overall charm of the track was fantastic, the chorus “I don’t wanna fight you, I just wanna bite you” teetered the track a bit into corny territory; the vocal's emphatic delivery also juxtaposed the sensuality of the lyrics in a way that wasn’t well suited. The band closed out with another danceable track, and the room was bubbling with excited energy.
The last two outfits, Schmave and Old Joy, shared the same Indie laden sound, flourished with typical drawled vocals, the occasional weighty jazz chord, and studio reverb effects. I’m not one for Indie-rock of any kind, so I can't offer much of a critical opinion. But, the two ran through their sets without a hitch, engaging the audience through the night. Taking a listen to their studio recordings, I’m a fan of Schmave’s drum production (clean and punchy), and Old Joy’s tracks are fast paced and full of head bobbing potential.