The Stage Mural @ The Court Tavern
The Court Tavern used to be just one of a slew of rock venues in New Brunswick, NJ. Pavement played their first live show there. The Smithereens once considered it their second home. Punk and Garage acts like The Butthole Surfers, Bad Karma, and Loaded Poets thrived in the gritty underground city scene. Now, many consider “The Court” the last bastion of rock in a city where the music has moved to concert halls and to the basements of Rutgers University students. Last night I followed our old Artist-in-Residence Verity in Stereo to The Court to see what the once-legendary venue was like.
Turns out it’s is almost as grungy as its reputation suggests. The bartenders were old, gristled curmudgeons. The bouncer spat and called me a “freeloader” when I told him I was on the list. The basement was hardly lit, and graffitied walls ran the length from the stage to the bathrooms in back.
Bob the Bathroom Guy
The crowd was mixed, something I hadn’t expected at a bar so close to a college campus. College students and thirty-somethings alike danced around un-self-consciously (a sight that shocked me after months of covering “too cool to dance” venues around New York City), while an old-timer or two got drunk at the corner bar, seemingly lamenting The Court’s fall from grace.
The Downrights’ Jared Paparozzi
The Downrights were the first act of the night, which was billed (somewhat unconvincingly) as New Years Eve Part 2. They played 3 Doors Down alt rock, supercharged drum beats and grungy guitars underneath emo vocals. Guitarist Jared Paparozzi was definitely best part of the band: his technical skills were smoking, and his shredding solos made The Downrights set worth it. Lead singer/bassist Kieran Tintle’s lyrics and delivery weren’t up to snuff, but whatever; I stayed just to see Paparozzi do that two handed strumming thing again.
Our Old Friends Verity in Stereo
After hearing so much about Verity in Stereo in December, I was really excited to see them live. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about their recorded sound; I felt like the piano rock felt a little thin, as if pianist Mikal Kuhi and woodwind player Corinne Cavallo wanted to do more than they could with the instruments at their disposal.
Live, they were plagued with the same problems, which led to some bare moments. But what was missing from their sound was more than made up for by Kiirsten Kuhi’s stage presence. She romped around the stage and rocked out in high heels, giving the audience a visual as impressive as her voice. The best songs of the night, like “Bullets and Bombs,” were successful because they gave her enough space to do her thing, with the full band backing her up at just the right moments.
The big surprise of the night was Root Glen, an eccentric alt rock four-piece from Central Jersey. Their happy, funky sound is held together by the absolutely phenomenal bassist Andre Gonzales. His complex basslines were compelling enough to add an extra layer to every song, complementing perfectly the hovering falsetto of frontman David Moroney. Sturdy guitar playing by Ross Griswold and the lean beats of Eric Blank added the extra kick that made Root Glen the tightest band of the night.
Root Glen was most powerful when Moroney added his own guitar line to the already full sound created by Griswold and Gonzales. In these moments their three melodies intertwined with each other on such an instinctive level, you would have thought the band had been playing together for decades.
Here’s a crappy-quality video (I seem to be doing a lot of those recently…) of Root Glen performing “In Some Time.” God I love it.
I personally can’t wait to see Root Glen again. If you’re in the Jersey area, you can see them at Rolf’s in Warren in the 29th, or wait until February 5th to see them back in New Brunswick, at McComick’s. Seriously, it’s well worth the trip.
(Oh, and there was a dancing bear for some reason.)
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