The oppressive Philadelphia heat and humidity retracted somewhat just in time for the world famous Golden Tea House to feature one of the summer's main events. After three of years of building anticipation through EPs (and a full-length which suggested their potential) New Jersey's Night Birds played one of three record release shows for the critically acclaimed Born to Die in Suburbia on July 11, 2013 to a packed house.
Although the hosts expressed dismay that the turnout seemed slim early on, by the time openers Paranoias took the floor, the place was at near max capacity. Probably the biggest surprise of the night, Paranoias were composed of four fairly young people that, despite their young age, were able to combine the classic, LA three-chord punk slam with Bay Area-esque driving chords. Their music was snappy and fierce, wavering between wide-eyed and explosive. Fundamentally, the younguns knew how to compose a song in its truest sense, so that their tunes had dynamics, often spiraling apart in the end in the tradition of the great rockers. This band has some real potential and is already capitalizing on a good deal of it. Also, their singer has a mid-period Darby Crash-style mullet. It looks pretty cool.
Altered Boys were probably the nastiest band of the night. Focusing on a strictly hardcore attack, the band kept their sound at 10 the entire set. Set to harsh, sharp riffs, the band sped through their set, at times referencing both Career Suicide and the earliest incarnation of Fucked Up. They were able to keep a certain flair in the aggressive style that made them threatening without being cliché. A bit more variation in their sound would do the band wonders, but being that they've yet to release a full-length, that will certainly come along shortly.
Canada's Omegas countered the other bands' focus on the "punk" side of hardcore and blasted through a set of NYHC and Detroit hardcore influenced material. Surprisingly, the band's rapid, but heavy sound created the most moshing of the evening, with the larger fellows bouncing off one another as large fellows are wont to do in such a situation. Thankfully, instead of driving down the well-trod road of metallic, chugging hardcore and lyrics about being stabbed in the back, the band lay more on the vibe of early Cro-Mags and Negative Approach. The music wasn't necessarily inventive, but it did sum up many of the best parts of meaner hardcore into one package.
Then, Night Birds took the floor and, once again, showed why they are modern champions of the form. First of all, the strength of Night Birds' set drew from the songs themselves. The band's songs, especially the new ones, revel in the concept of rock, which many punk bands are fearful to do. At times, the band pull so far back to classic surf and boppers, that they almost reference Chuck Berry by proxy.
The songs progress during their running time, growing wilder and wilder with each passage, speeding up, so that by the end, the refrains hit harder and with wilder abandon. The effect was noticeable in that nearly every song, including the brand new ones, had the crowd shouting along to the lyrics. Likewise, the band understand the importance of variance. Some songs storm along like hardcore thrashers while others twist and jerk like Chubby Checker's classic recordings. Likewise, while the term "surf rock" is often applied to Night Birds – and while it's valid – the sound always seems to have a sinister bend to it, which makes the music that much more exciting and textured.
The other half of the live set was that Night Birds are not afraid to put on a show. A good deal of punk bands, in an attempt to seem genuine, down play the fact that they are on stage and try to make the stage show as low-key as possible. By contrast, Night Birds took the kitchen floor, ripped into their first song, and kept their foot on the gas the whole time. They flipped from song to song, snatching the mic back from the audience to themselves and back to the audience again. When you're good at what you do, false modesty can be a real killjoy, so when the band started their set, they were good and they knew. Vocalist Brian Gorsegner didn't stop moving the whole set, keeping a look of horror and surprise on his face the entire time. Guitarist PJ Russo was loose in is playing, always snapped down to give the music that extra oomph.
Night Birds might make "classic" sounding punk music, but there is a certain eccentric uniqueness to their delivery. The sheer look of horror on Gorsegner's face when they play live suggests the reason for this, but doesn't give a clear answer.
-The "punk funk" factor wasn't too bad, surprisingly. Still, some dude cut an absolutely WRETCHED fart right in front of me. Why are the people that always brag about putting the best food into them always have the worst smells come out of them?
-CELEBRITY FASHION WATCH: Both Paint It Black's Dan Yemin and Andy Nelson have begun to cultivate the "Abe Lincoln" on their chins. Will this daring fashion gambit pay off? Let's hope they stick to their convictions through the fall and we'll find out.
-The Golden Tea House is a happenin' place. But, apparently, someone ganked their treasured Donatello action figure. Not cool, bro.
-Man! Recently, Golden Tea House has had Paint it Black. Mikey Erg, Vitamin X, Night Birds, Swearin'. Not too shabby! I hereby demand World/Inferno, Mischief Brew, Kicker, or Marshmallows. If none of them are available, then the Rolling Stones or AC/DC are acceptable substitutes.