Shooting From The Hip: Giving Some Respect To The School Of Rock

As a small time commercial real estate broker in the Meadowlands during the early ‘90s, I vainly tried to rent out the current South Hackensack space now housing one of Paul Green’s School Of Rock franchises. On a brisk Friday eve in late October, this combination music school/ concert space, a high-ceilinged black-walled warehouse that used to store airplane parts for nearby Teterboro Airport, played host to four promising post-emo outfits deserving wider attention.

Perhaps the most well rounded crew, headliners A Cursive Memory separated themselves from the trio of preceding bands by decorating their fashionable rockers with vivid multiple harmonies and melodic piano uplift. Much like better-off native California pop challengers Rooney and Phantom Planet, A Cursive Memory retain the same sunny West Coast disposition its refreshing well-established peers boast. Arguably the most dynamic outfit on this fine high school-targeted bill, the amiable quartet is one notch above most popular media-hyped trendsetters making the rounds.

A Cursive Memory’s blissful songs usually blossomed from humble auspices to sticky hard pop candy not strictly aimed at the girls. A few new songs that apparently don’t appear on their sturdy Vagrant Records debut, the optimistically titled Changes, generated at least as much attention as their more familiar numbers – a good sign. A forceful romp through Rhianna’s pop smash ,“Disturbia,” got the fans dancing, shaking, and bopping up and down. Viable axe men Colin Baylen (lead vocals) and Shaun Profeta played off each other while drummer Dillon Wheeler kept the tempo driving. Bassist Mark Borst-Smith’s amped-up electric piano couplets anchored a guitar-saturated take on Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” And a good-timey sped-up encore of Green Day’s heartfelt ‘90s classic, “Time Of Your Life,” brought back warm-up bands Singlefile and Rocket To The Moon for a dramatic ensemble sing-along that lit up the crowded cornered stage.

This night had already begun on a high note when New York City-via-Vermont foursome, The Urgency, newly signed to prestigious major label, Mercury Records (for a soon-to-be-released self-titled entree), got the audience involved with bashed riffage, rollin’ bass, and slashin’ skins. Singer Tyler Gurwitz’s piercing baritone hardened the affable power pop-injected emotional hardcore styling unveiled. Fans put their hands in the air for the catchy “Fingertips.” Then, The Urgency slowed things down for a wiry power ballad. All in all, they nicely set the tone for this dank autumnal evening.

Tidy Denver-based three-piece, Singlefile, proved to be the most eclectic band on tonight’s menu. Stinging leads, euphonic bass, and rumbling drums backed emo-screeched vocals. Nifty fright night ditty, “Zombie Ate My Neighbors,” seemed pleasingly reminiscent of Green Day (undoubtedly a heavy influence on each of these youthful groups). “Girlfriend” possessed a goodly Weezer-like sneer and utilized kitsch-y euphonious whistling. And “Dear Megan” piled on muffled guitar fuzz at its chanted chorus. A hint of They Might Be Giants’ naivete spiced up their frenetic set.

Keen suburban Massachusetts quartet, A Rocket To The Moon, embellished their moody white boy Blues with thoughtful arrangements held together firmly by jittered dual guitar lattice, juxtaposed soft-loud instrumental exchanges, and frequent dramatic pauses. They showed off a musical maturity just beyond their age limit and could be the most successful act to come out of this auspicious touring partnership. Time ‘ill tell.

To help this School Of Rock venue secure its status as one of the most ambitious musically dependent educational institutes, the promoters showed great intuition gathering likeminded combos with positive pro-rock attitudes. Furthermore, the brotherhood between these ‘nubian’ bands was absolutely palpable.

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