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Live Review: Spike Hill
By: Becky Firesheets
With a lineup including three guitarists, two percussionists, a bassist and a pianist, The Roadside Graves had a crew almost bigger than thetiny stage at Spike Hill. And by the time their set began, they had a crew of fans almost bigger than the entire bar. People squeezed into corners and stood in the doorway in order to catch the band jamming out their punk-influenced country rock into the morning hours.
The guys began their set with an aggressive song that transitioned into a country groove, then slowly built back up to end with the same level of loud rock. Throughout the song (and many others, too), percussionist Andrew Soto shook his shaggy head and hopped up and down to every beat. Though he was the most animated, the rest of The Roadside Graves busted out enthusiastic and quite original dance moves, only encouraging the audience to hop around with equally original moves.
The majority of songs were rooted in southern rock with a pop-punk flair, though one song brought out their love for the 80s while another showcased their Latin side. Complicated vocal harmonies and multiple guitar rhythms ran throughout set, along with beautiful piano melodies played by Mike DeBlasio, and bluegrassy violin riffs added in by Jeremy Benson. Their rotating percussive instruments, from shakers and tambourines to xylophones and drum kit, nicely balanced out the heavier guitars. Though such a large combination of sounds could have felt chaotic, The Roadside Graves pulled it together for a smooth, connected sound.
The guys truly drove it home with the last few songs of their set. Roadside Graves moved off stage into the audience, playing a tune that blended country music made for a square dance with hardcore rock made for a mosh pit. The musicians and their fans formed a circle where everyone sang, yodeled, played and danced. The Roadside Graves grooved in a Bela Fleck kind of style while the bar’s floor literally shook from all the dancing feet. They went out with a Bob Dylan cover, playing their last notes to some fierce applause and seriously loud screams.
Live Review: Rehab
By: John Engelmann
Richard Spitzer, sole proprietor of “New Jack City”-based outfit Nite Club, manifested upon Rehab’s stage looking not unlike a member of the nightshade family. Sporting a slightly hipster-ized take on early 1980s hip hop fashions—green and purple flannel, a subtly crooked cap, pink shades, posh red sneakers—Richard’s bold first impression left no doubts about his stage presence. Nite Club’s lack of traditionally sexy guitars in favor of keyboard and a laptop made this initial statement particularly crucial.
The set commenced without hesitation, ushering the listener into a whirlwind of fast tempos, jazz-like harmonies, and a cornucopia of lush melodies built from tasteful synthesized sounds. Completing this aural tapestry was Richard’s elegant tenor voice, which seemed well suited to melodic production; mild in character, it was neither distracting nor uninteresting. Richard’s playing style consisted of rapid-fire Morse code chords, punctuated by repetitive arpeggiated solos. He occasionally zipped down the white keys for garnish, but overall there was nothing excessively showy or virtuosic in his keyboarding.
The risk of sounding too effeminate or overly pre-sequenced was averted by the use of a drummer borrowed from Nite Club’s opening band, whose corporeal contributions added an edge to the sonic canvas. The drummer’s metronomic endurance was impressive, as he showed no sign of slacking even at breakneck tempos. In the spirit of vintage soul, almost every song of the set featured a drum break; one song resembled James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” turned 50% faster in the capable hands of the evening’sad hocpercussionist.
Richard’s movement called to mind the lateral head thrashing of Stevie Wonder and African dance steps. This worked well while he shared the stage with his human drum machine and trusty Macbook, but when flanked by a dozen friends later in the show (most of whom appeared in the openings acts), it became gaudy and distracting. His intense focus and physical energy worked best when, midway through the set, he broke away from the synth and sold his song directly to the audience from the front edge of the stage. This brief period of liberation of hands and instrumental barricades allowed him to appear more free, natural, and spontaneous: at one point he executed a leap high enough to achieve a slam dunk (it’s gotta be the shoes).
While much of the set resembled a cross between trance, disco-y post-punk, a touch of samba, and The Postal Service, hip-hop and jazz-fusion also made appearances. Sounding somewhat like a lighter-voiced Beck, Richard’s authentically voiced rapping took center stage in one of the songs. Richard’s co-conspirators took turns contributing quite a few more rhymes over an extended groove that gradually morphed into a very Jamaican flavor. Meanwhile, Nite Club recruited saxophone, trumpet, guitar, and bass players for “The Closer,” a jazzy roller-coaster-like jam.
Nite Club’s music and stage presence share the quality of being intense without being particularly “in your face.” With smooth melodies, extremely danceable rhythms, sustained onstage energy and a bit of variety, Richard’s act creates an ideal nightclub atmosphere. And his wardrobe alone is worth the price of admission.