In the midst of a bitterly cold, unforgiving New Brunswick winter, I’d be lying if I said the California surf-rock trio Wavves didn’t look starkly out of place when they literally crawled onto the stage for last Thursday’s spring kickoff show. With their bleached hair, tattoos, and glassy-eyed, too-cool-for-school demeanor, I would not have been surprised if someone told me they’d tumbled right off the beach in their hometown of sunny San Diego before boarding the plane to New Jersey. And although I’d been pretty excited to see the band after hearing so much hype about them through the festival circuit, it was definitely the two openers that overshadowed their headliner – in attitude, stage presence, and their performances in general.
The night began with a set from New Brunswick’s own Modern Chemistry. Composed of four Rutgers students, graduates Joe Zorzi (vocalist/rhythm guitarist), Brendan Hourican (vocalist/lead guitarist), Jesse Slachman (drummer), and current engineering student Matt Coccaro (bassist), it was difficult to turn away from the stage once the music began. They only played a seven song set, but it was obvious within that amount of time that these guys understand how to captivate an audience.
There are some bands in New Brunswick that seem to exist only within the basement show scene – take them out of the grit and the darker atmosphere of dilapidated floorboards and leaking pipes muffling poor sound systems and they can’t seem to function or thrash their guitars quite like before. But Modern Chemistry still were completely electrifying, performing all of the songs off their “We’ll Grow Out Of This” EP along with their recent single “Never Scared”. For fans of punk-influenced alternative rock, I definitely expect to see a lot more from the band in the coming months.
Next up was Echosmith, a band that seemed like a gimmick on paper but was anything but once they took to the stage and erupted in a harmonious introduction of angelic vocals, catchy guitar hooks, and indie-pop choruses that had everyone in the room dancing and smiling within minutes. Made up of four siblings from Southern California ranging in age from 13 to 20, they had a distinct youthful charm both on and off the stage. 16-year-old vocalist Sydney Sierota – the only female in the band – strutted out on stage in a sparkling minidress, crooning into the microphone in between prancing around the stage and performing her own drum parts.
The highlight of the set was undoubtedly “Cool Kids”, during which the band took a photo of the crowd and taught them the chorus before asking the audience to sing it back to them. By the end of the set, it was obvious why Echosmith has already performed on Warped Tour, opened for Owl City on a full tour, and been christened artists to watch for this year by MTV and Spotify – they are definitely well on their way to becoming the next huge name in pop.
So although Wavves didn’t quite deliver a performance that lived up to their cool kid demeanor, Echosmith and Modern Chemistry more than made up for it with their vibrant performances and strong musical presences. Check out Modern Chemistry’s EP, and keep up with Echosmith on Facebook to view their upcoming tour dates.