Generally speaking, there are two kinds of shows at Long Branch’s Brighton Bar: Late shows and really late shows. The club has for a long time now famously supported its local scene, and that’s great, but that means loaded bills and late nights almost without exception. If you’re going to the Brighton — once the home of New Jersey’s stoner rock scene and a place where acts like Monster Magnet, Core, The Atomic Bitchwax, Godspeed, Solace, Solarized and many others cut their teeth — you can safely bet you’re in for a long evening.
So it was on Monday when I headed down the Parkway to get there at around 9PM and found that only one of the five bands to play had been on. Radio Moscow were headlining, so they’d be on last, and Nashville upstarts The Dirty Streets would play before them, but locals were frontloaded as ever. I missed Buzzard Wagon — who I actually would’ve been interested in seeing — but got there as Iron Front were just getting started and watched their set along with The Loose Roosters, who followed in neo-grunge fashion and were a guitar/drum duo joined by two guest bassists. They sounded like Nirvana more than a little and weren’t who I was there to see, but it could’ve been worse.
One thing about the Brighton, though, is that it’s hot. And Jersey has not been exempted from the “definitely not climate-change-driven” surge in temperatures that has the rest of the country sweating off its collective balls. I knew that going into the show, though, and by the time The Dirty Streets went on, things were somewhat less dire. I’ll admit it’s been a bit since I listened to their 2011 album, Movements (review here), but as they played, the songs came right back, the catchy hooks and Blue Cheer vibing of “Cloud of Strange” from guitarist/vocalist Justin Toland serving as an instant refresher of their own infectiousness.
Along for the tour apparently and adding a striking visual element, Mad Alchemy‘s Lance Gordon stood on stage and spilled oils and projected swirls onto a white sheet behind both touring acts. Gordon (who was with Radio Moscow earlier this year as well when they toured with Graveyard) worked on one projector for The Dirty Streets and two for Radio Moscow, and underscored the psych elements in both bands with oranges, reds, greens, purples and so on. As The Dirty Streets‘ set progressed, I was taking pictures as local artist Megan Mosher, whom I’ve never actually met, handed me a small piece of paper with a Sharpie portrait on it, of me, that you can see above.
Flattering as the ego boost of even the momentary fascination of a young lady is for an oaf such as me, I bowed to thank Ms. Mosher for her work and went back to watching and shooting the band, who seemed to have a couple new songs in their set in addition to the material from Movements. Nonetheless, it was tracks like “Fight You,” “It’s About Time” and “Broke as a Man Can Be” that especially gave me a new appreciation for bassist Thomas Storz, who, though he barely faced front at all — to do so would’ve required turning away from his locked-in position in the rhythm section with drummer Andrew Denham — offered warmth of tone and complexity of play in kind. Relistening to Movements afterward, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed his performance on the record in the first place.
They closed out with their most memorable chorus to date in “What Do You Know,” which had me singing along — rare these days — by the end, and seemed overall like they’re still developing as a live act, but were already in a position where any number of American purveyors (i.e. labels) would be lucky to have them. Similar to Radio Moscow, The Dirty Streets could also be one of those heavy rock bands that crosses over into indie appeal, and doubtless tours like this one would be just how they did it. Most of all, it’ll be exciting to hear how their next record builds on the strengths they so naturally conveyed from the stage at the Brighton Bar.
Was it really 11:30PM when Radio Moscow went on? It felt later, but that’s the magic of a Monday show, or part of it, anyhow. Just three days after being Mr. Ultra Responsible and skipping out on a Friday night show before seeing a band I wanted to see (in this case, The Giraffes on their home turf in Brooklyn) because I had to work the next day, I decided to do the exact opposite and take my dose of rock and roll exhaustion with a smile. As soon as they started, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to be watching Radio Moscow‘s set the whole way through.
Much was made earlier this year of the unceremonious and violent manner in which Radio Moscow‘s previous lineup imploded (the former members of the Iowa trio have since reemerged in Blues Pills), but guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs has assembled a rhythm section around him now that’s second to none I’ve ever seen in a power trio format — and yes, I mean that. I don’t know if it was the fact that Radio Moscow was already decently known when they fell apart or what, but it’s no wonder Griggs is grinning so wide in the band’s press shot: bassist Billy Ellsworth and drummer Lonnie Blanton answered back every bit of his frenetic musicality, resulting in classic fire-under-the-ass whiteboy blues jams that if you could divorce the speed/death metal connotations from the word, you’d almost have to call “extreme.”
Apparently someone broke into their van outside Webster Hall in NYC the night before — so if you see them on this tour, which is ongoing, bring them some pants — but neither that nor the fact that they went on later than they otherwise might have seemed to dampen their spirits. The room took on the sharp smell of Gordon‘s various oils as Radio Moscow tore into their catalog with ferocity gloriously inappropriate for a Monday night, Blanton running circles around a stripped-down kit and hitting ghost notes on the snare while somehow also making each one of them count and Ellsworth bolstering Griggs‘ own fleetness of finger with no shortage of his own. Two inebriated bona fide classic rockers up front were much pleased, as was everyone else in the room with a soul.
I don’t know if you can really say Radio Moscow is still out supporting 2011′s The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz (the CD of which continues to elude me; I’ll grab it one of these days but didn’t have the cash at the show) since it’s a totally different band now and their latest release is actually the previously-unissued 3 & 3 Quarters which was recorded in 2003 and has Griggs alone on it, but cuts therefrom like “Speed Freak” and the late-arriving “Densaflorativa,” on which Ellsworth joined Blanton‘s percussion by hitting a bongo with maracas, were notably potent. Finishing with the John Lee Hooker-esque 12-bar “Deep Blue Sea” from their 2007′s self-titled debut, Griggs — situated closest to the Brighton‘s stage right wind machine and so absorbing the brunt of it for the duration — leading an extended jam that proved the prior hour of raging had not at all diminished his capacity for blinding lead work.
What it might take to do that, I don’t know, but when they were finished, Griggs looked ready for a second set. The band started to load their gear off the stage, Ellsworth as collected in his presence as he had been the whole time on stage apart from that maraca jam as he and Blanton signed vinyl albums they didn’t play on. To that end, let me say I hope current Radio Moscow gets to put out an album in this form. Griggs, who’s handled drums on every release to this point and is clearly in his right as leader of the band to make decisions in this regard, has a tough choice ahead of him for their next collection as regards whether to do it himself or have Blanton take on the role in the studio. I guess that’s a while out, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens there.
Ultimately, that’s why I went to this show. I could very easily have gone to Sunday night at Webster Hall instead and had both an earlier evening and probably a shorter drive, but when it came down to it — aside from wanting to support even the basic idea of a decent show happening in my beloved Garden State — I was there for the music. I wanted to see the bands, to really watch what they were doing, how they interacted and how it sounded in a smaller space than even the downstairs room at the New York venue would’ve provided. When Radio Moscow were done, I was one of maybe 25 people in the place. I don’t care what gig you were at, that’s a special memory for me even if the bands hadn’t been so killer.
So while it wasn’t the most practical start to this week, which has thus far taken the hit of my irresponsibility and will no doubt continue to do so until Saturday when I can, barring disaster, catch up on sleep before returning to the Brighton to see Halfway to Gone, I have no regrets. I got back to my humble river valley at around 2:15AM and was asleep a little after three, the grumpy Tuesday that followed a small price to pay for the night preceding.
Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.