The Bouncing Souls/Brian Fallon @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg

BROOKLYN, NY—As human beings, we crave connection. Maslow laid it out in his hierarchy pyramid. Maybe you learned about it in 10th grade social sciences. Maybe you nodded off during that lesson because you were at a late show the night before. Maybe a few of your favorite bands had played in some nearby city and there was no way you were gonna miss that.

But Maslow’s theory is interesting. At the bottom of the pyramid are our most basic needs, you know—air, water, fried pickles. Once we’re breathing free with full bellies, we need to feel a certain level of safety. Basically, we’ve got a roof over our heads and a place where our bike won’t get stolen. We’ve got some money coming in and we don’t have to sell records or plasma to pay for our next meal.

Right above that is the need for belonging. It’s the basic need for the love, however dysfunctional, of our family and significant other. Of course, we want to have friends—your general homeboys, your buds, your crew, your scene. It’s a sense of belonging. And even if we’re turned off by the greed of humanity, failed systems, and all the damn fuss over some former tweeny-bopper shaking her ass on an awards show, we still find a sense of community with others who hold these ideas. And it’s exciting to find we share common love of art and music with those who influence us from in and out of that scene. We thrive on connectivity.

Maslow… fist bump.

That’s basically what transpired on Monday, Sept. 30, in Brooklyn. Red Bull Sound Select gave the cultural documentarians at Brooklyn Vegan and Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon a chance to curate the September showcase at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg. What resulted was an evening of shared love, collaboration, and Brian Fallon stage diving.

Fallon and the Brooklyn Vegan boys chose Aye Nako and Nude Beach from the Sound Select program to open the show, a chance for both artists to play for new audiences, and Fallon would co-headline with The Bouncing Souls, the legendary New Jersey punks who taught he and his Gaslight brothers “how to be a band,” to connect all the dots.

The show was a mere $3 at the door, which meant it was sure to sell out. That explained why people showed up at 10:30 a.m. to ensure they would get into the 700-occupancy venue on North 6th St. Eventually, that line would stretch three blocks through Billyburg.

Aye Nako opened the show, the self-described “four weirdos trying to find their confidence, sexuality, harmony and payday.” Aye’s sound is pleasingly melodic, but behind that pop punch are some very complicated issues. Their non-traditions were warmly accepted and the band enjoyed the chance to play to a room full of different faces. And frontwoman Mars knows a Souls song or two.

“When I lived in Indiana, my best friend wanted to do a Bouncing Souls cover band. She was a big fan. I played guitar and I remember we played ‘Quick Check Girl’ and ‘Hopeless Romantic.’ I called her and told her we were playing this show and she was so jealous,” said Mars with a chuckle.

Next up were the Long Island boys of Nude Beach, who brought their own sort of rough-and-roll with no chaser. They’re recording now after having spent some time on the road. It was good to be back in the city where they regularly rock Lower East Side gigs. They were well received in the heartland, but they fondly remember a night in Nashville where they played for two people. They powered into their set, relying on the basic instincts of hook-laden classic rock with an indie delivery. Bassist Jim Shelton also specifically remembers the Epitaph Punk-O-Rama III comp, track four—the Souls’ “Say Anything” being part of his growing up.

As the night fell into a comfortable pace, Brian Fallon took the stage with his trusty guitarist, Alex Rosamilia, for a memorable set, kicking off with beautiful acoustic versions of Gaslight songs “Blue Jeans And White T-shirts,” “The Navesink Banks” and “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.” Watching Fallon play these softer jams make it evident of how Gaslight songs have such enduring afterlives acoustically, with these personal songs stripped down to their elements resonating handsomely.

He dealt perfectly with a nonsensical heckler by bringing her on stage, had some fun with the audience on the obscure Roky Erickson “I Walked With A Zombie” cover, and got clever with his “Here’s Looking At You, Kid.” Of course, with so many punks in the room, a classic version of the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies” was a hit.

Fallon will tell you his first tattoo was the Bouncing Souls mug. (He later had Souls bassist Bryan Kienlen do work on his leg.) The Gaslight Anthem absolutely crushed their set when they were asked to open the Souls’ annual Home For The Holidays in 2008. Fallon has forever worked “Gone” into his solo shows and makes lyrical references to common Souls landmarks. But the connections run much deeper. Fallon has said one of the reasons he ever started a band was because of the great Hot Water Music (look up their Trusty Chords cover) from Florida. The Souls have a long and even history with HWM that includes tours, a split 7-inch of each other’s songs and an otherwise longtime friendship, not to mention they just recruited their drummer, George Rebelo.

“George was the obvious and natural choice for us. He’s already family and we’d already rock some Souls tunes together during shows with our brother band, Hot Water Music. As expected, this weekend was a blast having George at the drums. He hits ‘em hard and straight, and runs like a diesel engine,” says bassist Bryan Kienlen. “It’s so reassuring having that steadiness driving the songs.”

Although taking different sonic journeys, The Bouncing Souls and The Gaslight Anthem come from the same place—not just the physical music hub of New Brunswick, New Jersey, but similar backgrounds and experiences. We love to see that our favorite artists love our other favorite artists. So for those who got to see Greg Attonito join Fallon and Rosamilia on stage for the 2012 title-track “Handwritten,” it was a thrill. And when Kienlen, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and newly minted drummer Rebelo took the stage as Fallon belted out verses to “Gasoline” into “The Night On Earth,” it was the perfect triangulation of these epic bands. All those Maslow needs were met.

“The Red Bull Sound Select show at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg was amazing! I had a great time playing with The Bouncing Souls and everyone was in great spirits. Definitely made a dream of mine come true by getting to play with some of my heroes,” added Fallon, “Another great show night, thanks to Red Bull.”

And as if all that weren’t enough, there was still an entire Bouncing Souls set to come. The 25-year veterans stormed the stage and unloaded a barrage of favorites: “Sing Along Forever,” “Kids And Heroes,” “Say Anything,” “True Believers,” “Joe Lies” and “Wayfarer”… just to make Rebelo feel at home.

And did they just play “I Like Your Mom?”

In addition to the connection to other bands, the Souls write music that specifically speaks to people—visceral songs about coming up and getting through life with your friends, connections whether you’re 16 or 36. Fallon got so worked up that he couldn’t help but launch into the raucous Brooklyn crowd.