Small Brown Bike / Bridge and Tunnel - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Small Brown Bike / Bridge and Tunnel

live in New York (2010)

live show

While the Cake Shop is a wonderful venue, the absolute lack of ventilation was murder when Small Brown Bike graced the bakery basement crowd with their presence. The sweltering, unrelenting heat that hung in the air gave things an ironic twist if you look at it metaphorically--over the late '90s and early '00s, SBB became the epitome of Midwest, emotional post-hardcore punk with more of a wintry aesthetic than most. But by the time the band delved into closer "The Cold" (see?), at least three dudes up front had shed their shirts as they waved their arms and hands into vocalist/guitarist Mike Reed's personal space.

We arrived just as Let Me Run had finished their set, which was a slight bummer (also, supposedly Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia was filling in). But Your Skull My Closet followed with a pretty rousing, cool set of noisy, riffy '90s punk with Drive Like Jehu/Jawbox vibes. Some bald, portly gentleman introduced them in the weirdest way, though, with a violently enthusiastic and numerically erroroneous countdown (pretty sure he counted from 20-11 twice in a row). Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, apparently their drummer is ex-SBB, so I hear.

People were already packing the front when Bridge and Tunnel were ready to go, and I hope those in the audience felt blessed for their front-row treat; the band played a set that was rather captivating despite it being halfway comprised of new material I'm not totally familiar with (presumably, some or all of it was off their new Indoor Voices EP). But that tends to be the case with B&T, though--they play with such passion and conviction it's hard to look away. They kicked it off with a song about stagnation in the field of education and a need to progress the way things are taught--probably something that hits close to home for vocalist/guitarist Jeff Cunningham, since he's a teacher. As much as the muggy air was beginning to choke off everyone in the room, him and guitarist/vocalist Rachel Rubino fought through perspiration and gave their all. Sometimes the vocals were a little low; sometimes the timing was slightly off; besides that, the atmosphere of effects pedals and raw melodies were infectious and set it up awesomely for SBB.

Set list (10:34-11:08):

  1. new song
  2. Night Owls
  3. Loss Leaders
  4. new song
  5. Wartime Souvenirs
  6. new song ("New Dialogue"?)
  7. new song
  8. Call to the Comptroller's Office

I respect Small Brown Bike a little bit more than I actually like them--they've influenced some of my favorite bands of the past few years. But I back their catalogue wholeheartedly, and was thus pumped to see them in, basically, a basement. The Cake Shop's sound system was a hell of a thing during Small Brown Bike's set. Despite the basement atmosphere it projected every vocal and guitar line loudly and clearly--but that also meant you picked up on the occasional fuck-up that sprung up every now and then throughout their set, as well as enhancing the overall rawness in a slightly faulty way. But it didn't affect the performance in any majorly negative motion--and if you asked the crowd, they probably wouldn't have cared. About 30-40 packed into a tight space that couldn't have been much more than 30 square feet and were pretty wildly receptive to just about all the band played. What they did play was actually a pretty even spread of their discography--about two from every release or so. I did feel after the fact they played a lot of the more progressive, melancholy stuff, but it turns out only two from The River Bed and one from Composite Vol. 2 was actually played. Maybe they were adding some pedals to the older songs just to mix it up or connect things better.

But no matter the way they touched up any song, they played 'em all with a good fire and the necessary energy you'd hope they'd have after only playing intermittently these past few years since reigniting things.

Set list (11:34-12:21):
  1. The Cannons and Tanks
  2. Safe in Sound
  3. Hourglass
  4. Unsung Zero (???)
  5. Never Walk This Alone
  6. A Declaration of Sorts
  7. See You in Hell
  8. The Vaccuum
  9. Tragically Ending
  10. A Table for Four
    Encore (12:24-12:27):
  11. The Cold