619 Lake Ave. 3rd Flr Asbury Park, NJ 07712
In the course of two weeks, I unintentionally saw 3 of the best bands I've seen all year, and they came a long way to blow my mind. We're pretty spoiled with heaps of talented bands in the Asbury Park area, and we see where the local influences stem from. However, it's interesting to see bands that grew up in completely different cultures, with diverse musical backgrounds shaping their style. Though these bands were a little different than those I'm used to seeing in this area, good music is good music, and these guys were all refreshingly top notch.
Let's start with Red Wanting Blue, hailing all the way from Columbus, Ohio. What, Ohio isn't considered an exotic land? Fair enough, but these guys sound like they came from heaven, and I hear that's pretty nice. While far from angelic, these guys have so much charisma that it was practically spilling out of Asbury's beloved Saint on this cold October night. Even though their songs don't sound like they were written by the guy who invented the wheel, they did have a pretty original sound, and these songs were solid. I mean really good. My favorite song came towards the end of the set, starting off with a rhythmic hand clapping and guitar strumming. The tune was called “You're my Las Vegas”, and it had the charm of being so catchy and fun that you felt you could sing along by the first chorus. What sold me on this band more than their tight performance and lovable songs was the energy. Their front man was theatrical and professional, with a huge smile as a constant on his face from beginning to end. The energy that spanned across all 5 band members and into the crowd (including the staff!) is what really made this a performance to remember.
The second artist that impressed me this October actually did come from somewhere far away: Perth, Australia. Having just returned from Australia, I was so excited to meet this guy, just to hear his accent. Travis Caudle and his lovely wife Nat (who looks exactly like Natalie Portman) were some of the kindest people to ever play the Saint. The accents and sweet personalities had sold me on them prior to Travis' set, but that made me even more impressed when his music blew the crowd away as well. I guess if you're playing shows on the other side of the world, you have to have some talent! It's amazing how one acoustic guitar and one person's vocals can fill a room. His songs were beautiful, passionate, well-written and well-performed, to the point that I forgot the accent and personality and became absorbed solely by his music. Well done Travis.
I didn't just save the best for last, I wanted these guys to headline this review because I have quite a lot to say about them! And also because they were the last of the 3 bands I saw during my little 2 week musical adventure. They're called Rubik, and they're from Finland. I ended up at the Wonder Bar seeing these guys because my buddies at Shore Alternative swore up and down that this band couldn't be missed. Trusting their opinion and wanting to support musicians so far from home, I ended up in front of these 6 foreigners, having no idea what I was in store for. Wow. These guys are... different. It's as if they write normal, great songs, and then they go back and throw a ton of stuff on top of it. They do this in a few different ways, but mostly by incorporating a slew of different instruments. The stage looked like a Sam Ash, with keyboards and synths on stage right, left, and center. That's not all; they have two spare musicians on stage to rock out on a different instrument every other beat. Trombones, maracas, then playing a floor tom with the maracas, mouth-powered pianos, a BIRD (it was an instrument shaped as a bird, that made bird sounds), and on and on. The first track on their record opens up with a pretty synth melody and mellow vocals which continues on throughout the whole song, only every few measures you have lyrics shouting and drums pounding loudly over top. Musically, this band is unpredictable. Because the songs don't have a clear structure, you feel a little lost in the intensity of all the noise going on; however, the energy is so empowering, it just feels good to be lost in it. These guys had such an impact on me that I went to see them at Webster Hall the following night, where they played as part of the Syndicate's CMJ party. Turns out, the Wonder Bar show wasn't a fluke- Rubik blew me away once again. The room stood still once they left the stage, as we tried to get our bearings and digest what had just happened. If you like all of your senses to be overloaded in the best way possible, try to find this band before they head back overseas.
Nina Chiminec is the marketing director at BandsOnABudget.com In her previous life she was the head of new media at SPV Records. Her clients included Motorhead, Type O Negative, and Skinny Puppy. She also spent 8 years recording and touring with the NJ rock band Avery. She can be reached at nina [at] bandsonabudget.com.