Cruisin' Down R- R-
Updated: May 6, 2019
The basement was packed. Skylar pocket was half way through their set, and it was impossible to see passed the crowd of people crammed in the small basement of “R- R-”. To see a show with maxed attendance was strange. Basement gigs tend to be hit or miss when it comes to turn out, but if people’s surprise at the size of the audience is telling of anything, it was that this show was a hit. Skylar pocket, usually a three-piece pop punk band made up of a drummer, bassist, and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist, is cherished as a sweet outfit who sway through a set of somber pop punk tunes, all given a rough melancholic accent by their vocalist’s hoarse crooning. They really kicked off the energy for the night, accompanied by a brass section that boosted their sonic range beyond what they could accomplish with their typical lineup; a ska flare swelled through the air that could be felt from up the basement stairs, where I stood soaking in their set through the door.
As S-P was wrapping up, I struck up conversation with a visibly nervous man standing next to me. Tall and a bit husky, he radiated an aura of concern and incessantly shifted his downward gaze from one side of the ground to the other, his body swaying with every turn; he had pre-show jitters. I found out later his name was Luke, but when we spoke he broke from his anxious ritual to tell me he led the next band: Teenage Halloween. Self-described as “sad-boi” power pop for queers, by queers, Teenage Halloween personifies frantic teenage angst. Through hard hitting drums, fluttering key arrangements, and their charmingly buffoonish lead vocalist, who wrangles his telecaster to produce a wonderful flow of crunchy power chords, this band of nerds brought a kick-ass vibe to “R- R-”. It was incredible to watch what, only a moment ago, was a shaking stuttering hipster dude turn into a bug-eyed growling punk rocker, who’s vocal assault on the crowd commanded their dance and fogged his lenses. At times, his voice reminded me a bit of The Boss, but I doubt Jersey was on his mind.
While the next act was setting up, I noticed the support beams of R- R-’s ceiling were lined with pink and yellow string lights, fake vines, and tucked away in the back corner of the stage stood a pride flag accented with pot leaves. The venue had a very “Indie” vibe.
Jake Mckelvie And the Countertops played next. Hailing from Massachusetts, they ripped out a groovy set driven by plenty of bosa nova inspired bass lines, driving drums, and a lead vocal performance that brought Animal Collective’s Unsolved Mysteries to mind. The third song they brought out was a bit of a slow jam that got the people standing up front raising their cans and bottles, swaying to Jake’s merry Mass. music. They were my personal favorite of the evening.
Professor Caveman played last, serenading the crowd with a soft set sown together by influences of jazz rock, jam rock, and funk. The lead singer, a short fellow with a face made of hair, guided the crowd in singing every song, occasionally breaking to slide his hands along the neck of his Fender for some gentle solos and rhythmic fingerpicking. The Professor was accompanied by a rhythm guitarist, keys, a bassist, and a drummer who all did their part to keep the music smooth and infectious. They closed their set with a sing-song groove, with the whole band singing in unison: “Life would be…easier…if we were…BaAaabiiess.” Something sugar-sweet to close out a lovely night.