The above picture doesn’t do any justice to the 50’s Prom Night at the Glasslands in Greenpoint this past weekend. This was a night where all magic was possible, and in a way, everything did happen. Rock and Roll rose from the ashes, and saved itself, in the most honest energy from four young men in particular — four young men, not of the regular Brooklyn garage scene, but from the Hudson Valley region, where they make rock and roll for the sole purpose that they have to, and less that they want to.
Let me explain.
The night began with a long trek to the Glasslands in the northernmost part of Greenpoint, in Brooklyn. The Glasslands is a bit out of the way, and the drinks are a bit pricey with a very limited selection, but that’s not why we’re there. I came for ’50s Prom Night, which promised Doo-Wop and Rockabilly above all else playing through the night, starting at eleven. It goes without saying that if you’re going to a bar with a theme party night in Brooklyn, chances are — regardless of theme! — you’re going to find those hipster assholes with tweed/courderoy jacket, tie and polo, and looking like they came out of a ’70s detective show. Instead, all the people came out in their finery, decade-theme be damned, and ready to dance. For the first time in a long time, I was at a show where everybody was dancing, and not just standing and nodding their head in acceptance that the band has a terrific rhythm section. I did the monkey, the swim, and the jerk with my best girl dancing in front, and it was magical — more than any kind of “Under-the-Sea Dance” featuring a time-traveling guitar player. Any day!
Opening the show was Sonia’s Party, a band with a generous section of band members — including a horn section — fronted by a girl who tends to be as provocative as possible with her former lover(s?) by asking for them back. However, for all of their posturing as to what their band is about, Sonia Party delivers on some truly sweet R&B and soul tunes. Much like the Amy Winehouses and Sharon Joneses, Sonia Party specializes in recreating the Motown/Stax soul sound as much as possible. And they succeed when they stick to the format, but lose flavor when they incorporate rap into the mix (in this case, the track “Friends,” which at this point is available as a live track on their MySpace — Sonia Kreitzer’s gorgeous, passionate delivery is reduced to obnoxious, drunk-college-girl-talent-show-night amateur rap, which has the disgrace to drag the Biz’s “Just a Friend” into the mix, trying to give credence to their tale of ‘just friends’ banging).
Yet, they were arguably the second finest act of the night, as Cheap Seats took the stage and delivered a barely memorable set. It’s not to say that they’re not good at what they do, but there was nothing particularly memorable about their songs. Again, they were not bad, but not great. Sorry, Cheap Seats. Maybe another time.
And then, along came the Rhodes.
Come to the stage like a fiery explosion of the past, the Rhodes brought a sort of energy that is palpable, radiant, and simply brilliant. Tracks like their latest, “All You’ve Got to Do,” backed with “How Long?” prove that these guys are after a brand of rock and roll that hasn’t been seen for years. Anyone else might be quick to, perhaps, compare them to Locksley, and refer to them as the Hudson Valley’s answer to that band. To which, I say the Rhodes sound a bit more earnest, less labored, but clearly as enthusiastic to bring back true-to-form rock and roll. There are bands like the Chesterfield Kings or the Black Keys who seek to replicate and era that does not belong to them, but, at times, suffer under their attempts and wind up appearing more as tribute than legitimate inheritors of rock and roll. The Rhodes do not have to worry, or even care for that matter, if they are being true to the original rock and rollers of yore. Instead, they play as if this is the only music that they’ve ever known; not with reckless abandon, but with practiced accuracy and precision. This is something that comes out in the album more than in the live show, as the album includes a strong bevy of lush harmonies, exceptional fretwork, and a tight drummer who knows that the best drummer is one who can keep a beat without unnecessary soloing. In particular, it comes through in their simple, but catchy, melodies, stripped down to the barest bone. How bare? There’s barely any distortion or overdrive on the guitar. It’s strictly clean, jangling guitar. And live, I sweated hard and soaking; I developed goosebumps, and an undying love for this little band from upstate New York.
Their album however is only the introduction to this incredible. The difference between a good night out and a great night can be one band, or even one song. In the case of the Rhodes, it came in a blazing version of the Temptations’ “Get Ready.” The Rhodes brought an honest sense of rock and roll without pretension. And for that, I am proud to say I’ve danced among their fans, and I adore them for it.
Below are two tracks: one, “Shakedown,” from their first album “Modern Sounds from Northern Towns,” and the other, “All You Got to Do” is their most recent single.
If my repeated declarations of love for this band falls short of trying to encapsulate everything I’m trying to say, I will cut my conclusion short by saying that I sincerely hope that Glasslands puts on more proms, or at the very least, keeps the Rhodes as a fixture in a scene cluttered with imitators. They are the real thing.