Night Birds - Live in Atlantic City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Night Birds

Live in Atlantic City (2016)

live show

It’s one thing to see a great band doing what they do, but it’s another thing entirely to see a great band that has just arrived at their proper station, being propelled by the rush of adrenaline forged by creative accomplishment. Night Birds, who recently released the superb Mutiny at Muscle Beach, proved themselves to be modern punk champions arriving at their newly fashioned throne on January 9, 2016 at Atlantic City’s Boneyard. The band’s core talents and fundamental skills were underscored by just how nonchalant they were only moments prior to the gig.

Although the Birds have recently released their best work to date, the Boneyard gig wasn’t necessarily a “special event.” It wasn’t attached to any particular tour, wasn’t in a spot famous for punk shows, and appeared to basically be a “weekend gig.” Just prior to the set, frontman Brian Goresegner was moseying around the club, hanging out with acquaintances and just being generally an affable fellow -- the kind of guy one imagines you make small talk with at the bus stop. Similarly, guitarist PJ Russo was clomping around in a trenchoat yukking it up on the topic of "Mr. Show." If you saw PJ with his pleasantly-goofy demeanor, you’d say, “I’d like to play Dungeons and Dragons with that guy.” But all marks, the band was there to lay a few songs, and have a good time, and hang out.

And then they got on stage.

Where the band had been a foursome of knuckleheads, within a blink of an eye, the morphed into a punk destruction machine. Rightfully so, the new Mutiny tracks were at the forefront, and as snappy and nasty as those tunes are on record, live the band was harder, wilder and more spastic. Goresegner, who just moments before was sharing hugs and high fives, now inhabited a sort of deranged personality -- you imagine seeing him on the sidewalk late at night, rifling through his baggy, patched clothes until suddenly he withdraws an ice pick and sets himself upon you. His face flipped between a sickened rage and morose horror as he sang tales about metaphysical horror and just straight up horror.

In the past I compared Goresegner to Biafra, and while that manic energy is in both of them, Goresegner has continued on his own trajectory. He bends far forward while singing, forcing the air out of his lungs and up his throat in a cracked blast, all while hiding a sort of glam-rock melody under the shards. He’s dynamic and wild and one can never figure out of he is a master actor or truly letting loose.

Meanwhile, PJ, who I had previously assumed knew a great deal about THAC0, had shed his overcoat and adopted a wide, Johnny Thunders stance. Between his shaved head and grimace chiseled into his face, it looked like he was ready to boot someone in the face and then keep booting. Luckily for us, he channeled that damaged energy into his music, pulling out catchy, but aggressive and thorny riffs.

Really, the whole band is working a sort of perfect chaotic tandem. Live, they are tight and know how to bind together to really give the new songs 14 mega-watts of punching power, but after they smash the place up, they fly apart in a sort of Ginn-influenced cacophony, each doing an individual assault. Live, these songs, even more than the studio, do show their adherence to the classic pop-rock formula -- these songs are catchy. But, when placed in the hands of these on-stage bruisers, these toe-tappers grow into foot smashers -- identifiable and inviting, but daring and dangerous none-the-less.

The band did rip out some of the older hits like “Midnight Movies” and “Bad Biology.” Those songs ripped it up for sure, but even those underscored how the band’s new songs are the pinnacle of their work to date -- the perfect understating of their mission, a vision for execution, and that early drive that allows an artist to do great work without fear of failing.

I often ponder why Night Birds, who, to be fair, are heavily influenced by the classic punkers, sound so fresh. Seeing the band live answers that question. Night Birds don’t seem to be trying to “recreate” anything. On stage, they just seem to be letting loose what’s really inside. Whatever that ancient energy is, I’m glad it manifests on stage because I like my intestines and teeth right where they are.

If you get the chance, see this band.