Live Review: Europa
June 9th, 2009
By: Vandal Truong
With a mixed bag ranging of epic rock themes to small human stories to political statements, the neopunk band Ben Franklin rocked the house of Brooklyn's Club Europa. The set started off with, "The Face of Proposition 8," a hard, in-your-face, reload the arsenal jam that encompasses what this band's all about: hard rock and liberal politics. There are no airy disco beats, no acoustic jams, and certainly no taking of prisoners as Ben Franklin is a live act that goes for the jugular with every song. Even the borderline kitschy, "Timmeh," dedicated to our Treasury Secretary Tim Gieger, is a sludge rock tune that sounds like Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Macis if he ever got the rocks removed from his mouth and asked, better yet demanded, "Where are my taxes?!"
The highlight of the night was "Tell Me How You Really Feel," which showcased the band's diversity. It has everything a punk song needs: heavy guitars, pulsating drums, and a hard bass line that feels like Satan's pulse. But they didn't settle for a good song, they were aiming for something more. Ben Franklin is a band full of odds and sods as the song has some surprisingly nice vocal harmonies. When lead vocalist Billy Gray screams, "And I lose control of my memories/ all I can see in front of me are best friends and backstabbers/ Go ahead and fuck yourself," the song transcends a moshpit anthem to become a surging declaration of self respect.
Bassist Eddie Garza brought an NYC punk throwback vibe, decked out in a suit and sunglasses. More importantly, he had the chops to back it up as his bass grooves and twisty-turny vocal harmonies provided the necessary jaunt to each song. During a technical glitch, instead of moping like would-be rockers waiting on Europa's sound engineer, drummer Sarah Tomek announced to the audience, "Hey I can just play Enter Sandman!" Quickly, Gray and Garza joined in and an impromptu old school jam ensued that created a series of howls and cheers from the audience.
There is a thrilling free play in the trio's wildly distorted, totally aggressive, sometimes trippy music. Ben Franklin is not trying to shove politics down your throat or create some new punk renaissance. They just want to think a bit about the world we live in, move your heart and in the process bob your head, too.