After growing up in New Jersey, I am completely up-to-date with all of the hottest NJ bands - Dollys, American Trappist
, Screaming Females
, Brick + Mortar
, and of course, The Front Bottoms
(the biggest ones to blow up and emerge out of the local scene thus far). And in addition to all of these bands being from NJ, they all have something else in common - they all performed at last night's 100% sold out Champagne Jam at Webster Hall, presented by The Front Bottoms. It was essentially New Jersey heaven.
After bumping into about a hundred old NJ friends who all made special trips into the big apple just for this show, I finally made my way to Brick + Mortar at The Grand Ballroom, who put on a wildly entertaining show. They managed to take the crowd into this cartoonish world with their extravagant use of props - gigantic clown gloves, signs with the words "hey!" and "locked in a cage" (one of their songs), a grim reaper costume, a Yoda costume, and cartoons being projected on the wall. The drummer was somehow playing all of the music at the same time with the singer on bass, while a random "hype man" jumped around on stage in a bra and crowd surfed on an air mattress. Oh yeah, and someone also proposed to their girlfriend in the middle of the set. That was cute.
Screaming Females were on next, and Marissa Paternoster was the ultimate bad ass. The three piece from New Brunswick was led by a single wailing guitar (which could've easily been mistaken for three, given its power and complexity) and a roar that Carrie Brownstein would be proud of. Unlike Brick + Mortar's set prior, there were no props - just all black outfits with little to no talking. They brought back the true punk attitude that is so truly missed.
The final set was the eagerly-anticipated Front Bottoms, whose stage set up was endearing and even a little bit nostalgic - the band, a man sitting on a living room couch on the back right, and a woman sitting at a table and calmly painting a picture on the front left. A line of Christmas lights was dropped along the floor with an enormous "Champagne Jam" sign on the back wall. Frontman Brian Sella looked ecstatic to be there along with the rest of the band as they blew through all of the best songs in their catalogue - "Skeleton," "Tattooed Tears," "Au Revoir," and of course, "Twin Size Mattress" (I'm not a poser, let's just admit that's a really good song).
However, the most fun part to watch was not the band, but the crowd. I've been to a lot of concerts in New York and I have never, ever, ever
seen a crowd this wild. I was standing up on the balcony watching from above, as me and my friendly neighbors joked about the crowd and how dangerous but fun it looked. Everyone was packed together with not even one inch in between and most were moshing and crowd surfing while screaming every lyric to every song as if their lives depended on it. "You know, it's because this is a New Jersey crowd," one person said on the balcony, and we all immediately agreed. Although I personally did not want to stand in that scary-looking crowd, it was so invigorating to see after attending countless shows with "too cool" Brooklyn hipsters who are too good to respond to live music with anything more than a light head bob. I was excited to see that people still react to music this way - with no humiliation or shame, just love and passion.