When we caught up with Jared Hart, frontman for New Jersey punk band The Scandals, about a year-and-a-half ago, one of the things we chatted about was that the band’s then-long-finished EP was finally hopefully due for release in the upcoming months. As should be readily apparent given the tone of that run-on first sentence, the slow-moving wheels of an increasingly bogged-down music industry had other plans for the Bayonne-based quartet. At long last, the Brian Fallon-produced five-song EP, entitled Lucky Seven, officially found itself with an April 28, 2017, street date, a split release from the good folks at New Jersey’s Panic State Records and Richmond, Virginia’s Say-10 Records. The following day brought the official record release show, an Andy Diamond-booked barn-burner of an affair at The Crossroads in Garwood that was equal parts party and punk show. The night’s heavy emphasis on the unity and the camaraderie in the North Jersey scene was palpable, so much so that other scenes should take note.
The Scandals had a bit of a tumultuous go of it a handful of years ago (maybe someone will tell that story someday in greater detail), but with founding member Hart at the helm, the current lineup (Sean Carney on bass/vocals, Anthony Iarossi on guitar, Paulie Yaremko on drums) has been in tact for somewhere around four or five years now, and the band have never sounded better live. The band’s hour-long headlining set was high-energy from the word “go.” With the addition of his solo career and his more recent spot as a member of Brian Fallon’s touring band The Crowes, Hart has been on a bit of an upward trajectory of late. Still, The Scandals have long been Hart’s baby, and he repeatedly displayed his appreciation for the names and faces that have helped and supported the music along the way. The crowd seemed to reciprocate that appreciation as an endless barrage of crowd surfers made their respective ways toward the stage, met on multiple occasions by Hart himself mid stage-dive. There may have been a couple of technical malfunctions along the way — not the least of which was the untimely demise met by the on-stage margarita machine — but that did little to hamper the positive, extended-family-like vibe that was present really from the time the doors opened.
The support lineup on this show was deep and very much Jersey-centric. d’arcy and Nine Eighteen kicked things off in that order, each one a high-energy trio offering a slightly different but no less uptempo and throwback sort of sound. The former band play a feedback-heavy brand of rock heavily influenced by the good parts of the alternative scene two decades ago (think Smashing Pumpkins before Billy Corgan became…well…Billy Corgan). As a native of the greater Boston area, I couldn’t help but notice sonic similarities between Nine Eighteen and another band of The Scandals’ frequent showmates (from my neck of the woods) Burning Streets. Scandals’ bassist Carney joined the trio on stage for a well-received, and pitch perfect, cover of the Hot Water Music staple “Wayfarer” (pictured above).
Dead Swords followed and served as a compelling change of pace, albeit one that may have seemed a bit confusing to the more mainstream punks in attendance. The duo is comprised of Alex Rosamilia (The Gaslight Anthem/Brian Fallon and the Crowes) and Corey Perez (Bottomfeeder, ex-I Am The Avalance and Let Me Run), and they were making their first US appearance on this particular evening. Rosamilia handles main vocal duties in the band, with Perez providing the occasional backing harmony, but the real emphasis in Dead Swords is, as you might imagine, guitars. Heavy guitars. Loopy, distorted, swirling, gloom-and-doomy, plodding guitars. The set featured minimal stage lighting, allowing even more of the focus to be on the sludgy sonic experience. They aren’t really like anything I’ve seen live, at least not in a long time, though there are moments that are vaguely reminiscent of Face To Face bass player Scott Shiflett’s side project, Viva Death, at least in my frame of reference.
Gates proved direct support and, if you’re not overly familiar with Gates’s live show (as I’ll admit, rather embarassingly enough, I wasn’t) and you have a chance to catch them live in a club like Crossroads…get off your ass and go! The five-piece are difficult to pigeon-hole into even a small handful of genres. They’re a dynamic rock band that plays and performs to the very back of the room, and are more than capable of filling rooms many times larger with their sonic landscapes. They’re at times delicate, at times swirling, at times explosive and at times, frankly, beautiful. Seriously, check out their summer tour dates here and make it a point to go.