Pic Courtesy of Damion Photo
JERSEY CITY, NJ—I could live at The Lamp Post, if they’d let me. Mingling inconspicuously with 2nd Street residences in Jersey City, the small bar & grille has felt friendly and been quite busy whenever I’ve gone for a show. Each one I’ve caught has been free. Bands set up and play just outside the kitchen door, the staff of which have clearly grown accustomed to dodging stray headstocks and errant cables—clearly an issue of necessity but it makes you feel easygoing. I also need an audiophile to explain to me why it sounds so good in there, but, I digress. We gathered for this Thursday night gig to celebrate a year’s worth of StarBeat Music’s dedication toward supporting quality local music. January of ’12 saw their first release, when the indie label helped put out the Fa Sol La EP from Those Mockingbirds on vinyl, and since then, they have been stalwart sponsors of the artists they love and admire.
And I love this music of theirs too, so, to hell with the Spartan parking prospects that cost me a portion of Melissa Lucciola’s opening set. I’d only heard of her band Melissa & Paul, and still I know nothing of this Paul, but I promptly fell head over heels for Melissa’s agile singing and guitar-playing. The songs come across with a thick veneer of garage and blues, and there is more than enough of that in the Tri-State Area, but most of it lacks the panache and imagination that Lucciola brings in spades. The rhythm section was, as well, a classy foil to a serious talent—head to her Bandcamp page post-haste and get acquainted.
When that wound down, I was able at last to settle into a beer and a better spot to stand. Hilly Eye were next, with new record Reasons To Live out via Don Giovanni Records. Amy Klein has been working on this since parting ways with Titus Andronicus, and her careful, deliberate guitar parts combine with the tepid drumming of Catherine Tung for a duo-makes-noise wall concoction that left me feeling inwardly polarized. I’m all for viscous riffs, the minimal-yet-imprecise beats, the demure vocal approach—this ought to have been directly up my alley, but something freaky was going on. Can music be standoffish? I was impressed with the compositions, their deployment of loud/soft, the notes of interest in the chord progressions and in the harmonies, but something felt aloof, for lack of a better word. Was it the way the lyrics sounded oddly indignant against the music’s noisy serenity? I might never know, but I’ll still be following them. There is much to like about this band, despite my inexplicable feeling of exclusion.
All along, Those Mockingbirds had been on the bill in disguise, under the name Blüd Diamond. Crafty! I am docking points for an absence of face-paint and codpieces, but a swaggering set full of grimy Mockingbirds riffage went down just right after Hilly Eye. Most of the songs they played were new ones, from an upcoming LP (I’m told the name’s a secret). Though fresh to my ears, they sound very much like a band at the peak of its confidence, building steadily on the sound they’ve established and inching dangerously close to perfecting it. Though each song inspired some anxiety for the new disc, none did so much as “A Ballad From Hell,” a swampy, downtrodden number that I’ve been wanting to own since hearing it at The Meatlocker months ago. “Don’t Stray” and “Coast To Coast,” from Fa Sol La, appeared effortless and have blown past their studio counterparts. It made me wonder: I’ve always looked at them as a band that’s mastered the feeling of release, the act of blowing off steam—perhaps the sad passing of their beloved tour van put them at the top of their game.
Boxed Wine were tabbed to close the night. Fresh off the release of their three-song EP, Cheap, Fun, this group is one I had only seen in the setting of a New Brunswick basement, which proved to be a fitting place for their jubilant indie pop to call home. Indeed, they are just as cozy in a JC watering hole, as their positive energy picked up the room once more in commanding fashion. The best part of watching Boxed Wine is the amount of fun they are obviously having as they blow through staples like “Boomerang” and “Waste Your Time,” each songs with quirked-up hooks and dangerous amounts of caffeine. Bodies bounced to bopping tempos, fist-pumping anthems, and hooks from Chris Mactire’s chirping tenor. “Dayglow (Why Can’t We Stay?)” is my favorite of theirs and a very satisfying closer, adorning the drunk-at-party vibe with bittersweetness. They gave me an overwhelming feeling of freshman-year nostalgia that I’m still kind of feeling.
This, friends, is why I am addicted to rock shows, and I think the folks at StarBeat Music have the same tick. Their free bill had a lineup that was stylistically scattered and full of talent, with cheap drinks, enjoyable company, and a better live balance than some mixes I hear at large-capacity clubs in the city. Keep your view fixed on The Lamp Post—a comfortable joint with consistently great music—and on StarBeat, who’ll keep you in the loop with the local music to which they are wholly devoted.