Many shows which feature unsigned bands have a lack of flair and production, which is understandable due to the limited resources people have who aren’t backed by a label of some sort. On the night of March 24th, 2012, Gotham Rocks was out to prove the masses wrong. The show, headlined by local rockers Ghosts of Eden and located at Gramercy Theater, was as professional as one could ask for. In fact, it could have been at Madison Square Garden… yes, it was THAT pro! The sound, lighting, and bands’ performances were all top-notch and made you feel as if nothing else in the world mattered for those precious moments of time.
The show started with the band Circus Life. Dressed in their slick fedoras, ties, and 1920s-esque bartending clothing, they started the night off in the right way: rocking your nuts/ovaries off. They brought intensity, flair, and a lot of fun. The three piece band are all fantastic musicians who connect well with the crowd. A highlight of their set was their rockin’ cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up Now Tell Me”, which brought back memories of neon and L.A. Gear sneakers. They ended their set and left the crowd wanting more. Following Circus Life was a band from Florida called Chasing Thrill. Apparently Florida grows some pretty energetic rockstars in addition to their oranges. Yes, these freshly squeezed youngin’s provided a great stage show, rocking out in sync and making most of their stage with their banners, acrobatics, and high energy. The singer had some rough patches here and there but he made up for it with his energy and by completely owning the last few songs of their set.
Next was the tri-state band Mother, who happened to have some of the coolest merchandise at the sales booth. These guys bring a grunge edge with some Guns & Roses-esque style in their songwriting, and lead singer Nick Fargo stops you dead in your tracks with his voice (in the good way, not in the “take-an-icepick-to-my-neck” kind of way). The band was great and provided some diversity in their set when Nick went behind a keyboard for some tunes. I saw this band at the Bitter End a while ago and was very glad to see how they stepped up their performance for the big stage at Gramercy. They took the rock & roll equivalent to Viagra and rose to the occasion big time.
Face the King from Long Island followed Mother. This band was a bit different from the first three in their style of rock; they sounded like U2/30 Seconds to Mars/Muse, which differed from the hard rock vibe of the first few bands. Still, they captured the crowd with their sound and light show, which were spectacular. The instrumentation and intricacies of their songwriting came through on the sound system at Gramercy quite well, which only improved the experience. I have had the opportunity to see both 30STM and U2 live, and I will say that Face the King definitely FELT like being at one of those shows (without the Bono sunglasses of course).
Next came the headliner, Ghosts of Eden. They started their show with their drummer playing a keytar (you know those 80s keyboard/guitar things people used to wear?), which I had no idea were still being MADE (I think I saw one in a museum once). They began quite mellow, each member coming out one by one to their intro which built from a synth line to an all out blaze of rock goodness. They brought everything you could ask for in a big rock show: great sound, songs, lighting, energy, stage presence, crowd interaction, and fun. A few great moments occurred during their set: the band brought out Stephanie Azzarelli to play trumpet for their cover of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, which was excellent! They had the crowd cheering and singing along, like any good cover should do. The next highlight of their set was when they faked their last song and lead singer Tom Pino came out with his guitar to sing a lovely ballad on his own, strumming chords and singing with all his heart. The crowd was captivated, as the lyrics were poignant and very heart-felt. Then the rest of the band joined the stage after and finished their set with a couple more rockin’ tunes. The only thing left to say about their set is best described on one of their t-shirts (which happens to be a song lyric of theirs): “Yea MotherF$#^&er!”
Last but not least, the final band was The Blackfires. Holy unexpected-asskicking-bodyslam-of-rock-awesomeness Batman! They brought phenomenal energy to the stage and their singer was incredible. He has one of the highest vocal ranges I have ever heard in a singer (and this includes guys like Kip Winger and Robert Plant!). Their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock N’ Roll” was absolutely amazing (especially since it is very difficult for a band to cover that song and do it justice). The rest of the band are equally as talented, bringing some fire, energy, and ass-kicking to the end of a great concert.
All the things you would expect of a concert full of several unsigned bands did not happen: the opening and closing bands were not terrible, the stage didn’t look like your mom’s basement, and the bands didn’t sound like two monkeys trying to hump a football. The entire show was as professional as one could ask for and all of the bands provided great music and a great concert-going experience. I tip my hat to the Gotham Rocks crew and everyone involved for a great night. I can’t wait for the next round of new bands to rock my socks off, which are still drying from last night’s experience (that’s how you know you had a good after-party too!).