Basement shows rarely ever run smoothly on a normal day, but having a show on Friday the 13th almost guarantees that nothing will go right. Despite the date, however, the show I attended last night at the John Ryle House in Haledon, NJ was one of the most efficient and pleasant basement shows I've ever been to. For starters, the show only started 25 minutes late, instead of the usual 90 minutes.
The opening act was Lake Effect from Montclair, NJ. During their set-up, their upbeat demeanor and giddy excitement was reminiscent of a bunch of high schoolers playing in their first band together, but as soon as they started their set, they proved to be much more fascinating than that. Instead of playing the kind of timid, sloppy, but well-intentioned music of a high school band, Lake Effect is incredibly precise and inventive, coming off like a more psychedelic version of the Strokes, with some Guided By Voices pop songcraft thrown in for good measure.
Up next was Brick Mower from New Brunswick, NJ, who was definitely the highest profile band of the night (they have a Wikipedia page and everything!). I had seen the band briefly at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick back in November, but this was the first complete Brick Mower set I've seen, and they definitely delivered. Like many of their Don Giovanni labelmates such as Shellshag and Black Wine, Brick Mower has a great, fuzzy sound that's sweeter than punk but rougher and less formulaic than pop punk, reminding me of Superchunk or Ted Leo.
The third band was Slonk Donkerson, the only out of state band of the night, though Brooklyn is hardly out of state when you're in North Jersey. This is a band with a lot of hype around it, and though I was expecting another punk band (an expectation which is correct about 75% of the time), Slonk Donkerson is something much stranger. In the weirdest way, they reminded me of Rush, as if they took all of Rush's intricate, early '80s pop elements and then simplified them. It also helps that they're a trio with a singing bassist and a guitarist who plays with a chorus pedal. This is a sound that pretty much no other band is tackling today, but Slonk Donkerson handles it beautifully.
The last band of the night was Knights Templar, who I previously reviewed last month for another basement show. The last time I saw Knights Templar, they were playing as a guitar/drums duo, as they were briefly between bassists, but tonight was the first time I saw the band with its new bassist. This set was definitely the most streamlined and focused I had ever seen the band, and its mix of pop songwriting with oppressive, doomy noise was perfectly balanced.
To give a sense of how smoothly this show ran, the original event page had listed Knights Templar finishing up at 10:40. By 10:45, I was already on my way home. So much for Friday the 13th.
Check out all of the bands below! Support underground music!