November 15th, 2016 at The Sinclair
By: Amar Fernald
A week after the election that has turned the country on its head, I was lucky enough to experience the continuation of punk rocks stand against the corporate world, and the beginning of its fight against the new challenges that come with a president-elect as polarizing as this.
The headliner of the show, Jeff Rosenstock, a well-established member of the punk rock community (namely from his previous groups “The Arrogant Sons of Bitches” and “Bomb the Music Industry!”), had this to say before his set electrified the crowd into a moshing frenzy:
“We have each other in this room and that’s a start…Having walked around today I feel a lot of love here…and I think we all do want to look out for each other…Get active in local government and make sure changes get made from inside…We all do this together and that’s the start of a community and that’s the start of something good…Right now there’s shit to do…If you’re feeling inspired, stay inspired, they’re designing this whole thing to prevent you from being inspired, and to keep you depressed. FUCK THAT SHIT! GO DO SOMETHING! We’re Jeff Rosenstock”.
The energy had been building all night in The Sinclair. Early Bird, a local band not on the tour, kicked things off with a short set of Weezer-esque geek/punk rock songs as the crowd slowly trickled into the intimate venue. Up next was Katie Ellen. Led by Anika Pyle’s multi-faceted vocals, the NY based pop-punk group engrossed the crowd with its combination of upbeat, percussive tracks and more mellow, bluesy ones. In between songs, Pyle let us know that their performance carried significant meaning. Calling for a stand against sexual assault and shaming people based on identity in her manifesto of the song “Sad Girls Club”, she offered: “Sad girls club is a space to embrace the qualities of the feminine in all people, so that we might create a fairer, gentler, kinder world, where we are not afraid to feel”.
Following the heartfelt, mixed up tempos of Katie Ellen were the power chord heavy, driving melodies of Hard Girls. The Californian trio brought the crowd to a roar with one fast paced song after another, including fan favorites “Sign of the Dune” and “Screw”. Propelled by the scream-singing of bassist Morgan Herrell and the steady thumping of Max Feshbach’s bass drum, the group brought the energy back into the Sinclair right on time for Jeff Rosenstock and Co. to take the stage.
Jeff started his set with “To Be a Ghost…”, a song off of his new record, WORRY. The song is gentler than most of his work, and although it discusses the harsh realities of police brutality, it was an interesting choice to begin the night with. Both the audience and the band seemed ready to explode after Jeff’s speech, and the song brought the energy down instead, inducing a drunk, swaying sing along you might expect to find at 2 a.m. in a karaoke bar.
Despite the slightly confusing start, Jeff brought out the high energy rock and roll that everyone was expecting in the next string of songs. “Hey Allison!”, from the 2015 album We Cool?, whipped the crowd into a frenzy as bodies started flying across the floor in The Sinclair. By the time the next song came up, “Wave Goodnight to Me”, also off the new record, the room had turned into a full on mosh pit.
Caught in the middle, and never having experienced anything like this before, I was intimidated at first. But as I listened to Jeff and everyone around me belting out the chorus, I couldn’t help but join in. It was invigorating. It was energizing. It was freeing, in a way. Standing there, throwing yourself against strangers, being hit on all sides by people not out of malice but out of joy – it reminded me of something Jeff said in my interview with him the week before:
“At the end of the day, while all of this terrible stuff is happening, we can’t deprive ourselves of good feelings. We can’t deprive ourselves of the feeling that we can achieve something, or the feeling that we can be in love, or the feeling that we can have a happy moment throughout the day. It’s incredibly important to keep that going or else we’re just fucked.”
Jeff’s music keeps those good feelings alive. It was clear from watching him and listening to him that he has fun playing music to people who have fun listening. So it was no surprise that the rest of the night was all smiles, shredding guitar solos and booming melodies. Most of the songs were from the new album, including “Staring Out the Window at Your Old Apartment”, “Pash Rash”, “HELLLLHOOOOLE”, “June 21st”, “The Fuzz”, “…While You’re Alive”, and the fan favorite “Festival Song” – a healthy combination of pop and punk that is easy to sing along to and makes for an instant party.
For the loyal fans, the band played “Nausea” and “Beers Again Alone” from We Cool?, which inspired a hearty round of stage diving and crowd surfing. The night ended with “Get Old Forever”, also from We Cool?. A song about appreciating the happiness that comes from spending time with friends and family while life moves forward around us, it was the perfect note to end on.
Jeff Rosenstock’s music makes us recognize the joys in life, while wholeheartedly embracing the fact that it can be really shitty too. On Tuesday night, he reminded everyone that the important thing is to realize that together we can make change happen, and have a fucking great time while doing so.
If you want to see Jeff for yourself, he’s touring with the The Menzingers and Rozwell Kid in the spring and will be back in Boston in early April of 2017.