Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Show at Cool Beans - Review

This past Wednesday, December 23rd, local band ‘River City Extension’ hosted a Holiday concert at Cool Beans. They packed the house and the restaurant was well over capacity and rightfully so, the bands that I got to see rocked the building to its foundations.

I got there at around 7:30ish and apparently missed Grand Alto’s set, but having seen them a few months prior I can assure you that they’re a blast in concert.

The first band I saw that night was ‘Foxes And Lions’, an extremely fun band that I had been hearing about since they formed earlier this year. A relatively young band, these fellows (and lady) know how to keep an audience involved. You could just feel like appreciation flowing through the crowd during their set. They played a fast-paced set of almost Mariachi-esque songs mixed with a certain punk vibe that’s hard to place. I’ve heard some bands that sound similar, but none with such convincing performances.

I had the chance to sit down and talk to lead singer/guitarist John Muccino (he’s the guy on the right) after the show and he’s the kind of guy where if you talk to him once, you feel like you’ve known him for years. During our quick little talk I was able to learn that he’s an 18 year old student who currently attends High School East right here in Toms River and that he’s been playing guitar since he was 11 years old. His list of influences could fill a few pages, but to give you an idea of where this band is coming from, he lists Dylan, Bruce, Frank Turner and Bach. The band is truly talented and it would be a real treat to see them in the future.

Next on the lineup was Brick & Mortar (Formerly known as The Black Rhythm). They’re a two-piece band consisting of Brandon Asraf (Bass/Samples) and John Tacon (Drums/Percussion) that formed in Toms River when we were all students at High School North. Even though I’ve been friends with these guys for years, I’ll be the first to admit that they make the kind of music that not everyone can get into. It’s dark and strange, but it most definitely has a beat that you can boogie to (or if you’re a white like me, flail wildly).

I haven’t seen these guys play a concert in at least four years and they have evolved so much that Darwin would be proud. Their new songs are a natural progression from where they once were, taking themes from various musical styles and melding them into a sound all their own. For the end of their set they took played a song that must be at least 6 years old and made it new again. The autobiographical song “Told You” was a definite highlight for me however.

When the night was done I got to sit down with both of these gentlemen and ask them a few questions. Tacon noted how much their music has “grown and matured” since the early days, and how they’re always looking for “different sounds and off the wall structure” when it comes to songs. I asked Brandon why he decided to start a band and he said he just wanted “to see if I could make music.” According to them their music can only be classified as “Honest,” and when it comes to new songs they “Make ‘em, Take ‘em and Fake ‘em.” Their new 6 song EP entitled “7 Years in the Mystic Room” set for release in February.

The headliners, “River City Extension” closed out the night in fine fashion. I had the pleasure of seeing this group at the same venue a few months ago and yet again they failed to disappoint. After a nice intro by newcomer Samantha Tacon (vocals) they ripped right into their set. RCE is one of the most energetic bands I’ve seen in quite some time, and they really get the crowd involved. Keyboardist Pat O’Brien (who joined in August 09) agreed with me when I described their sound as American WildMan Rock, and you ever see them live you’ll know what I mean. With the recent addition of Tacon on vocals they’ve added a great counter-balance to the vocals, at times she has an almost Sara Bareilles-esque quality (that’s a good thing, btw).

They played a new song on their upcoming album (Due in May), entitled ‘Mexico’ which starts off with an extremely funky bass & drum intro sets the song’s great vibe, then the trumpet begins and adds some nice Mexican flavor like a fine spice. The lyrics state that they “should’ve gone to Mexico,” but I’m quite pleased that River City has decided to stay here.

I was able to snag a few words with Joe Michelini (Guitar/Vocals) of River City and he said that he’s just “always wanted to make music.” I went on to ask him what he thought of the show as a whole he said he “loved it…I’m overwhelmed with emotion.” Michelini is a real stand up guy who’ll tell you exactly what’s on his mind, something that can only be expected from someone raised here in Toms River. When I asked him for his thoughts on this years Holiday Show at Cool Beans he had this to say;

“When I go into a venue, that somebody else organized, it’s a much different thing. Tonight I stood in the back before we went on and saw everyone milling, drinking, laughing, and I remembered playing to almost no one for years. The difference tonight was stand there and knowing ‘I built this’”.

All in all this was an amazing show that didn’t leave anyone disappointed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review…any feedback can be left in the comments section.

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