Hoboken's New Pop-Party Underground: Neon Peach Records
Dusk was setting as phosphorus hues of pink and orange shaded the summer skies over Hoboken; a town now romanticized for its robust legacy as an epicenter for New Wave and Alternative Music. Home to the cherished and regrettably defunct Maxwell’s – a New Wave/Alternative club immortalized for hosting such esteemed acts as Nirvana, Hoboken natives Yo Lo Tango, and my personal hero R. Stevie Moore; along with being a progressive venue, home to queer-centric “tea parties”- the mile square city has experienced a palpable lack of modern creative energy redolent of its esteemed “scene” days. While venues such as the recently restored White Eagle Hall and WFMU managed Monty Hall have been passed the torch as major hubs for live music in Hudson County, a newer generation of musicians are plotting to bring “scene” music back to Hoboken; under the freshly established collective “Neon Peach Records”. With the ambition of operating as a modest cassette label, Neon Peach has been establishing its roots by hosting sparse live performances within the city. What follows is an overview of their most recent event.
The only act to perform outdoors, Phoneboy were a three-piece alternative-rock pop outfit composed of a drummer, bassist, and guitarist/vocalist. Each player adorned in their own distinct form of summer attire, the band erupted with a tight Hendrix style jam driven by rapid roaring drums, precise bass work, and chunky guitar strumming. Rhythm was held tight as the bassist alternated his tone from a muted jazz style to hard rock distortion that was grainy and more visceral than the lead singer’s Fender Jaguar. The guitar was mid-focused tone wise, keeping the song’s blues/funk progression locked down. Effective as a simple jam outfit, the guitarist flashed some minor improvisational playing; while the volume was a bit low, his phrasing was of a typical blues-rock/funk variety that was cohesive and well timed. Their second song, a straight forward alt-pop piece, cemented my opinion that they make for a pretty good college rock outfit; the student based crowed seemed content and entranced by the band’s music. Slowing down in tempo half way through, phaser was kicked on the guitar as a rehearsed solo resonated through the sunset air. The lead singer’s vocals were accessible; youthful, softly swaying in pitch, and meshing well with the nostalgic energy of their surf-like instrumentation. Distortion was then added to give some angst and intensity to the solo, but abrasion was avoided by keeping the volume low. The rest of their set was laden with covers of popular rock songs: e.i. "Hotel California", "Free Bird", "Say It Ain’t So". Students sang along as Phoneboy took requests; on a neighboring rooftop, some kids could be seen strumming away at their own guitars, inspired by the up and coming alt-pop musicians.
As the sun came down, so did the stage; everyone was ushered into the basement for Josh From the Island. With the heir of an EDM DJ- putting to use his booming voice and hypebeast attitude- Josh kicked things off by blasting a raid of cliché trap airhorns before jumping into the audience to the chip-tune splendor of Anamanaguchi's "Endless Fantasy". A decent crowd bounced along with Josh as he lunged back behind the DJ stand and reclaimed control over his mix board. The basement grew hot as techno/house beats pulsed from the PA system, which was adorned with a neon sign depicting the soothing setting of a tropical beach. The audience was fairly engaged with Josh’s onslaught of exciting beats and memey samples. The set was direct and typical for dance music. Half way through, Josh took pause to announce that a limited run of cassettes would be release by Neon Peach Records, featuring his music. Back to live mixing a few tracks, sporting manipulated vocals ran through his audio interface, the set carried out about the same.
After approximately an hour intermission, attendees were guided to another section of the basement where pop-performer Cristó stood on a wooden table, engrossed within a pounding procession of club style beats. Body swaying and voice howling through a heavy filter of autotune, Cristó kept the crowd close for their non-stop barrage of pop-ballads and club anthems. Paying tribute to popular hip-hop recording artist Frank Ocean, Cristó covered the track "Solo" off 2016’s platinum album "Blonde". Voice saturated in corrective effects (even when speaking to the crowd), the performance was well produced and educed the potential of an intense and splendorous pop-show.
Air muggy from sweating bodies, Rose Image hopped onto the table ready to close out the night with a kiddish set of simple hip-hop. Reeling a juul from the crowd, “Rossie” (that’s what the audience called him) sported a lackadaisical flow that swung in a pitch which came off as premediated and a bit self-righteous. Playing into the persona of a rapper, his movements were rigid and convulsive, as he violently bobbed his torso to the rhythm of his cunning vocals. The performance wasn’t wooden, but something about his style was ostentatious and demonstrative of a rehearsed character rather than a sincere performance – not to say performing artists aren’t acting to some degree, but an artist’s genius shines through when the guise of their act is convincing of sincerity. Reveling in the effervescence of the audience, now reaching up to touch Rossie from the imaginary stage, the irreproachable façade of his rap ego became transparent as the young rapper took off his shirt and placed a plastic gold chain around his neck; with possible irony intended, he shouted something to the effect of “Fake chain making me feel like a real rapper!” The crowd cheered wildly. Everyone saw themselves on stage.
Neon Peach is making the effort to revitalize interest in original music within a town iconified as a humble addition to the New Wave/Punk scene which bubbled in Manhattan forty years ago. With genres emblematic of fantastic reminiscence to a time where counter culture was tangible within the propensity of an underground “scene”, it was a period of innovation for conventional rock forms, pushing what were considered the stylistic boundaries between rock, dance, and electronic music – what came of this experimentation was both culturally constructive and commercially viable. Neon Peach is curating a catalogue of artists who seem to be leaning towards the latter spectrum of what makes independent music exciting for local audiences. Every artist on the bill played music that was palatable and popular among mainstream music listeners, so they stray away from the outsider/DIY repertoire of artists I tend to highlight on this site. This collective is still developing though, so the opportunity to expand and invite artists of more niche/alternative backgrounds could be possible once a consistent draw of listeners is established.
Inherently accessible and drawing in a college crowd, Neon Peach has the careful opportunity to open up Hoboken to an eclectic culture of independent, DIY, music that promotes inclusivity and artistic variety. For the time being, the priority seems to be getting people dancing and have a good time (which they did). But, taking a retroactive narrative into account, going forward I’m interesting to see how Neon Peach evolves its catalogue and artistic mission.