featuring Laura Stevenson
February 9, 2019 at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC
After touring non-stop for his 2016 album WORRY and his 2018 album POST-, Jeff Rosenstock has decided to go on an indefinite break from his solo work to focus on his side projects, such as his band Antarctigo Vespucci. The Long Island native went out with a bang and played four sold-out nights at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. The variety of fans in the dimly-lit venue ranged from rowdy teenagers to middle-aged adults. Regardless of age, everyone seemed eager to show their appreciation for their hometown hero.
On the final night, Rosenstock had his longtime friend Laura Stevenson open the show. Stevenson began her set with slow ballads like her new single “Living Room, NY,” which showcased her powerful voice with minimal accompaniment. She later brought out a full band for her more upbeat tracks like “Jellyfish,” encouraging the audience to dance along. By including such drastically different songs in her set, Stevenson showed the versatility of her songwriting. No matter what she played, the audience responded with thunderous applause.
After Stevenson’s set, Rosenstock took the stage with Mike Huguenor on guitar, John DeDomenici on bass, and Kevin Higuchi on drums. Rosenstock prefaced his set by addressing the crowd directly to set some ground rules to make sure that everyone could enjoy the show: “We can dance, just don’t do any of that violent shit. If you’re gonna do that, then you can get the fuck out of here.”
After setting his expectations for the crowd, he began with his song “USA.” The song’s first lines, “dumbfounded, downtrodden, and dejected,” give insight into how Rosenstock feels about the world around him. He is known for criticizing society through his music and performances. Tracks like “HELLLLHOOOOLE” and “Let Them Win” express frustration with oppressive systems looking to profit off the masses and were highlights of the extended two-hour set.
As serious as these songs are, the show itself was far from grim. His darker lyrics were accompanied by fast-paced instrumentals, lively chants, and even comedy. In tracks like “Festival Song,” he makes fun of himself for being a “willing participant” in the capitalist music industry and pokes fun at punk music fans for wearing “sweatshop denim jackets.” Fans embraced his carefree attitude for the night and ran from the problems of the outside world straight into the exciting chaos of the mosh pit.
To make the evening special for the die-hard fans, the band opted to stray from their usual setlist that remained relatively unchanged for the past year of touring. Deafening cheers erupted when the band played tracks from the self-released, rarely performed 2012 album I Look Like Shit along with the last 11 songs off the 2016 album WORRY. Rosenstock played these songs back to back, creating a high-energy wall of sound with his rapid-fire lyrics and heavy use of electric guitar. The noise filled the audience with adrenaline and the crowd never stopped moving, with Rosenstock himself joining the crowd surf alongside his fans.
To wind down the night, he finished his set with “We Begged 2 Explode,” a song about growing old and having to leave behind the punk scene. Unlike most of his songs, the song begins quiet and slow, building up before exploding into a chant that filled the room. The audience swayed from side to side, taking in their final moments with Rosenstock. He exited the stage quietly, but his fans cheered long after the lights came up. His final show proved that his music will live on through his fans no matter where his career takes him.