Review, photos: River City Extension's CD release show
The show kicked off with rousing performances by fellow Toms River up-and-comers Foxes and Lions and Brick and Mortar.
As the crowd swelled, it was treated to a set from the Roadside Graves, who blasted through “Demons,” “Ruby” and “Liv Tyler” and ended, gloriously, with a flailing, stomping, in-audience dance party.
By way of introducing the feature attraction, singer-songwriter and friend of the band Taylor Allen, tuxedo-clad and with drink in hand, attempted to auction off a Ziploc bag holding RCE front man Joe Michelini’s newly shaved beard.
The bidding hit $50 before Allen lurched offstage, leading the cheers as the band launched into the opening instrumental track of “The Unmistakable Man.”
As they played through the new album song by song, the band’s energy was matched only by that of a mob of stage-hugging fans who, having devotedly followed the eight-month recording process, sang right along with them.
(A lot of the loudest supporters appeared to still be in high school, and more power to them. But while it’s mildly disconcerting to hear Michelini sing wistfully of getting old—he’s only 21—it’s downright weird when scores of teenagers belt out lines like “all I want is a job and a god and a wife.”)
Even the slower, gentler tracks from the new album—of which there are several—were infused with a taut energy, and the loud and fast became firestorms of wailing melodies and galloping beats.
But even soaked with sweat and fueled by a wildly enthusiastic crowd, the band never lost its grip on its superior musicianship. From Dan Melius’ talented trumpeting to James Ramiz’s brilliance on bass and banjo to Michelini’s own soulful vocals, the cohesive performance never faltered.
Before a three-song encore and a whiskey-fueled, crowd-surfing finale, Michelini shouted his gratitude and thanks to the audience.
“It was very, very hard making this record,” he said. “This feels very, very, very good.”
Judging by the grins on their dripping faces, his bandmates and fans agreed.