Fresh, forward thinking, exciting and all that good stuff that punk should be from Jeff Rosenstock.
The last time I saw Jeff Rosenstock I can't remember much. I had spent the afternoon day drinking watching the FA Cup final. The day drinking turned to night drunk and then, at the end of Rosenstock’s set, drunk drunk. The following morning I woke up feeling that my head was two sizes bigger than it had been and multiple messages from my friend to send him “the pictures”. Turns out we hung out with Rosenstock afterwards.
That was then.
Tonight’s set, at The Haunt in Brighton, was totally different. Partly because I was sober, but partly because Rosenstock is on the crest of a wave that started with the release of his latest album Post-
. An album that re-established Jeff Rosenstock as the most exciting thing in punk at the moment.
Rosenstock friend and Antarctigo Vespucci-cohort Chris Farren got things going. Farren is a punk troubadour, whose songs are full of pathos, humour and ultimately hope. His set featured him raging on a guitar or a keyboard, while a clinical and an unrelenting drum machine kept time. His guitar was festooned in led lights that showed up the glitter on his face. The standout tracks were ‘The Way That I Love U Has Changed’ and 'Chris Farren’s Disney’s frozen'. The first was rousing, yet heartfelt ballad that showcased Farren’s skill as a songwriter by articulating that moment in a relationship when your feelings stay the same, but also change. It’s something that most of us have gone through, but never really thought about in this much detail. The second is taken from Farren’s Christmas album and shows the other side of him. It's a hilarious romp showing off Farren’s prowess as a clever lyricist, but it's also brilliant.
After a brief interlude Rosenstock took to the stage stating, “Fuck, this city is beautiful. Anyone who lives here is pretty lucky!” before launching into the epic ‘USA’. From the first note, the band put their foot down and didn’t let up for the hour and a quarter set, culled from his ridiculously stacked back catalogue. ‘USA’ was written out of frustration with where America was heading politically and could be the best protest song in recent years. When it entered the keyboard section, it was growing into a full-on monster, and everyone in The Haunt knew it. During the ‘Tired and Bored’ part of the song, portions of the crowd started a call and response with the band. Band and crowd were acting like a symbiotic being. We were feeding on their energy and they were feeding on our appreciation and anticipation.
One thing was certain after ‘USA’ finished. Rosenstock owned the crowd. He oozed charisma, and the honesty, and hilarity, of his performance, meant the crowd would follow him wherever he was going. ‘Pash Rash’, ‘All This Useless Energy’ ‘Hey Allison’ ‘Festival Song’ ‘Nausea' and ‘Yr Throat’ followed. Each being lapped up by a crowd baying for more! When ‘9/10’ started a couple next to me started a gentle slow dance together. This is not what you expect from a punk show, but Jeff Rosenstock isn’t your normal punk. His music has a tenderness that is unexpected. As the band thrashes on their instruments, Rosenstock bears his heart and soul and his honesty comes across. “I’m so out of place when I can’t be with you. If I don’t see your face. It’s almost like I missed you” he croons. In another’s hands, this would well awkward and needy, but the delivery of her performance is perfect and you feel his pain.
What makes a Jeff Rosenstock gig so special is that on record the songs sound fresh, forward thinking, exciting and all that good stuff that punk should be. They make you look at your own life, and choices, and question if that was the right decision. They’re full of clever lines and witty wordplay that make you smile and cry in equal measure. But live, they become these living and breathing things. If you saw back-to-back shows ‘Pash Rash’ wouldn’t be the same. It would evolve and adapt to the crowd. It would mean something different each night. It would skew from being a recorded belter, to a full-blown beast, full of sing-along moments and searing solos.
After an encore including ‘The Trash The Trash The Trash’ the gig was over and home was calling. It was a night full of sing-a-longs, witty stage banter, crowd participation and a general vibe of things are going to get better. On the way out I overheard someone say “That was awesome. Better than last night. Can’t wait for tomorrow”. That level of dedication isn’t there if a band doesn’t deliver. And Rosenstock delivered!
Tired and Bored. Watching this? Never!
Photo credit: Tess Cagle
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