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Concert Review: Jeff Rosenstock at the Catalyst Atrium (2.24.2018)

Hot off the release of “POST-” early last month, pop-punk veteran Jeff Rosenstock concluded their tour with a banging interactive experience at the Catalyst Atrium in Santa Cruz on February 25, 2018. With a hefty 24-song setlist lasting almost two hours, Rosenstock set out to provide a nonstop energetic performance with the goal of maintaining the audience’s hype throughout.

Known for his abrasive vocal work and reflective lyrics, Rosenstock’s live set transcends what’s present in his studio albums with an even stronger bombastic performance, breaking the wall between the stage and the audience. From live soapbox rants during song breaks to conversations with the show’s audio technician, Jeff proves his desire to satisfies the audience’s needs of relief from normal everyday monotony.

The audience took note of Rosenstock’s efforts through an unanimously uproarious energy found in both the mosh pit and concertgoers hanging out in the back. There was also a sense of harmony in the venue whenever Rosenstock performed one of his more romantically-driven songs. A highlight from the event was during Rosenstock’s performance of “I Did Something Weird Last Night,” in which a fellow member of the mosh pit joined me in singing the last chorus with gusto.

And then there’s the band themselves, and unsurprising Jeff Rosenstock were on-point for the entire duration. From the frustration-charged “USA” to the self-deprecating “You, in Weird Cities,” the group never once showed signs that their vigor was wearing thin. For each song, the band infused concert-specific quirks into their pieces to differentiate them from the album version, whether it’s the multiple modulated choruses at the end of “Wave Goodnight to Me” or the extended ending for “…While Your Alive”—another memorable moment where Jeff and the audience belted out the concluding line “love is worry” over a dozen times.

The setlist also proved to please a multitude of fans, from those who only recently discovered Rosenstock with “POST-” as well as people who’ve been fans since “We Cool.” As far as which songs the audience resonated with the most, cuts from “Worry” seemed to get people headbanging the hardest, which may have been because of the album’s infectious melodies and traditional pop-punk mentality.

The flow from song-to-song also worked well, orchestrated in a fashion where one can mistake the setlist for a professionally sequenced art piece. It helps that almost a third of the setlist includes five songs from the melody sequence featured in “Worry,” though ending the initial set with “Let Them Win” from “Post-” was an off-kilter choice. The three-song encore of “9/10,” “You, in Weird Cities,” and “We Begged to Explode” worked well as a closer, featuring songs from Jeff’s three latest albums.

Thankfully the group translated the charisma from their LPs onto the stage with glowing results. If you’re a fan of power pop-punk, go see Jeff Rosenstock next time they’re on tour.

Deerhunter – Monomania

Deerhunter / Monomania /  Out via 4AD on May 7th, 2013

Like any well-oiled pop machine, Atlanta’s avant-garage outfit Deerhunter knows when to slowly gas the psych propellers into an ambient blissout, and bust out pedal-to-the-metal spurts of pure punk rock as soon as the lighters get raised. The band’s fifth studio album Monomania dropped May 7th via 4AD, this time forgoing the astral plane explorations of their sonically anarchic back catalog, and opting instead for a more concise pop record that snaps and crackles in equal measure. The interstellar improv and dream pop sensibility that once resonated at galactic proportions in earlier releases is tighter than ever, as though transmissions between ground control and the International Space Station achieved a crystal-clear moment of recognition, to produce a new release that is surprisingly grounded.

Amidst the bray of garage-punk snarls and slow burning shoegaze longplayers of recent days, it’s hard to tell if and when the genetics of alt rock will see the promise of mutation. In a culture-jamming return to form,  frontman Bradford Cox told Rolling Stone that he and guitarist Lockett Pundt listened to only The Ramones and Ricky Nelson prior to making the album, and also cited Pierre Schaeffer, Steve Reich, and Bo Diddley as major influences. In fact, Cox referred to Diddley as “the god of this record,” but added, “I don’t think there’s a single Bo Diddley beat on the album.” Regardless of its precise coordinates, Monomania is a refreshingly relaxed moment amidst the fluorescent junk-pop riffs and celestial loops that combine to form Deerhunter’s weird era of psych-rock ephemera.

Feedback freakouts “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II” open the band’s sixth studio album with freshly sharpened bite, pedaling onward without a moment’s fiery respite. Third track “The Missing” casts a synth-soaked ray of sunshine into the shimmering sea of kraut grooves that comprised Pundt’s 2012 release Spooky Action at a Distance, drifting into the hustle and creak of “Pensacola” and “Dream Captain”, freak folk Americana jams sporting a looser, garagey feel that evokes the DIY tape hiss of psych-rock contemporaries Woods. Saloon waltz “T.H.M.”, the meandering strings of “Sleepwalking”, and tightly capped jam “Back in the Middle” tread familiar ground in the newgaze post-explorations of Deerhunter’s back catalog. Five-minute title drone “Monomania” trickles into the cavernous cassette echo of “Nikebike”, proceeding through dirge to draw open the ultraviolet shades of “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)” for a final wave as the sun sets over a decidedly “avant-garde rock & roll record”, according to vocalist Bradford Cox in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. If their 2010 release Halcyon Digest didn’t hammer your tympanic threshold into metronomic submission, let the message ring forevermore that while indie festival darlings are only beginning to touch on the apache anthems and art-rock tinkering of the early 2000’s, Deerhunter continues make giant leaps forward, without all the white noise to mute their sonic footprint.