"ABC No Rio shows never start on time," a friend of mine said as we made our way downtown to the NYC community center. Being my first time attending a 3 P.M. Saturday matinee show there, I didn't exactly pay that comment much mind until we were a half-hour past the scheduled start time, waiting outside, and having only one band show up so far (NYC's the Killtakers). Nonetheless, a six dollar price tag for any show is a steal, and time didn't seem like too much of an issue anymore as soon as a van sporting California plates parked nearby, signaling the arrival of BYO Records' Nothington. The band emerged and quickly started loading their gear (some of which still has the name Tsunami Bomb on it) into ABC's gallery room where the bands perform.
Having a copy of the band's excellent debut record All In, I was really looking forward to see how their live show would match up. Batting lead off, the band was ready to go as singer Jay Northington wished the crowd a happy Cinco de Mayo, followed by them tearing into set opener "Something New." They sounded incredibly tight. Northington's Tom Waits-esque growl retained all of the abrasive qualities it does on CD, complimenting their style of southern rock 'n' roll punk extremely well. From there, they charged into "Going Home" with bass player Mike Hicks doing his best Agent M imitation to fill her vocal part from the record. I found it amusing that they swapped "Mississippi" for "New York City" in the "moving west" lyric, since using NYC in the context of the song doesn't work very well, but it was nice of them to give a shout to the home crowd. Their energy didn't stop, the guitar and bass pounding heavy while drummer Gabe Lindmen's rolls punctuated accordingly. The band plowed through "The Bottom Line," "Awake for Days" (allowing second vocalist Chris to take lead for a bit), "This Means War," "The Last Time" and closed their segment with a rousing rendition of CD opener "Where I Stand."
During Nothington's set, the Gaslight Anthem and Fake Problems had finally made their way to the venue and it looked like we weren't going have a truncated show after all. Next in line however was the Queens-based band the Killtakers. I didn't know any of their material prior to the show (which was odd being that they're local), but they played a very good set as well. The energy and enthusiasm which was started by Nothington was definitely continued with their performance, blasting through roughly eight or so songs. Their core sound has a fair amount of Hot Water Music influence, which I can solidify saying as I listen to their EP which they gave out free at the show. They definitely opened with the song "Boiling Point" from said EP, as the tempo change which appears midway through the song is unmistakably recognizable.
After winning a friendly argument with Fake Problems over who had to headline (both bands seemed to want this spot for whatever reason), New Jersey's the Gaslight Anthem took the stage. With the recent buzz and positive word of mouth groundswell surrounding these guys, I can see them developing a sizable following very soon. They evoked the biggest crowd response of the afternoon, their songs launching ardent sing-alongs from a portion of fans hanging on the words lead singer Brian Fallon bellowed out. Their set was undeniably fantastic, playing a number of songs off their upcoming full-length Sink or Swim including CD and set opener "Boomboxes and Dictionaries," the Samiam reminiscent "Wooderson," "I'd a Called You Woody Joe," "Drive," "We Came to Dance" -- a song which wouldn't be out of place on a Lucero record, and closer "We're Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner." They also played a new tune to appear on a later disc entitled "Senora and the Queen." The depth the band exhibits in their material is quite something, each of their songs sounding just as diverse and impassioned as the previous.
Florida's Fake Problems were the final band of the day, and though they had a bit of a diminished crowd to work with (a lot of people seemed to take off after Gaslight finished up), they still rocked their blend of Against Me! and Defiance, Ohio-inspired folk-punk loud and raucously for whoever stuck around to watch them. I didn't know a ton of their material beforehand, but on my commute back to Long Island I was having a hard time getting "Born and Raised" out of my head. They played exceptionally well too, keeping the steady flow of power and liveliness evident as each of the other bands who also had played. Unfortunately for them there were a ton of technical problems during their set. Early on the mic cut out in one of their songs, greatly hampering the vocals, the bass player got an electric shock from a speaker which practically brought him to his knees, and the guitar player's amp pretty much died out on him for some reason. They got help from the guys in Gaslight though, Brian literally jumping behind them to hold a portion of the guitar player's amp in place so they could keep playing. Soon after that, Gaslight's guitar player Alex helped replace the defective part and the rest of the set finally went undisturbed.
Set list (from paper):
- motion of the ocean
- maestro of the rebellious symphony
- life's a drink, get thirsty
- sorry, ok, sorry, ok
- born and raised
- oh maria [followed by a fast rendition of it]
- heck yeah summer!
- to repel ghosts
Despite the show beginning an hour and a half late, the quality of the performances each band exhibited were of significant magnitude. It's very rare that you're able to come away from a show so satisfied with how every single one of them performed, and this afternoon a prime example of that. Each of these bands played with a distinct love of what they were doing and were having a great time playing their songs. Hopefully years down the line each of these acts will still play as well as they did at this show.