Asbury Park September 9, 2012. The Stone Pony Summer Stage
Review by Angela Blasi
As the summer tapers to a close The Offspring settle into a night of rock n’ roll to light up our own historic Asbury Park. Being a Sunday show, doors opened at 5pm with a special indoor performance by Old Bridge Twp locals, The Stolen. A pop punk quintet just getting their feet wet, they were surprisingly easy to listen to. Still a little awkward on stage with a fan base composed of primarily family and friends, they proved confident, appreciative and best of all, catchy. You can give them a listen here.
First up on the summer stage we have Dead Sara, the Los Angeles based, female-fronted quartet catching fire as they tour in support of their self titled, debut album. Though they were only given 30 minutes on stage, vocalist Emily Armstrong, bassist Chris Null, lead guitarist Siouxsie Medley, and drummer Sean Friday made every minute count. Stepping to their respectful places with a quiet, seamless presence, they broke the silence with the steady groove of Medley’s distorted guitar on “Whispers & Ashes.” After a pleasant introduction, the rock got underway with “Test on my Patience.” There is one thing I have to tell you about singer Emily Armstrong- she does not merely sing. Instead, she opens her mouth and lets the music pour out with unabashed passion. A voice that has been unparalleled in recent time, or at least in the twenty something years I’ve listened, she is the physical embodiment of the thumping bass drum and the richness of bass guitar. Music has been devoid of stellar vocalists who understand the instrumentation of the voice for far too long. I loved “Lemon Scent” – matching vocal melody to the squealing allure of Medley’s instrument, yet gravely growls in all the right places.
I had the opportunity to interview Dead Sara and learn more about their music. From their love of the road to the creative process, Dead Sara is all about doing what feels right in order to create pure rock n’ roll as they see fit; casting off the music industry machine in their early trials and distributing their music via their own label to maintaining complete creative control over their art. I hope they realize how much faith they have restored in rock n’ roll fans as they spread their refreshingly raw sound across the nation. Ironically enough their fame is almost accidental, as a radio disc jockey discovered the hit single “Weatherman” and simply started playing the powerhouse of a song out of enjoyment. A fitting beginning for a band that exudes humble passion, displaying modesty and compelling honesty in personality and musicianship. When I asked Armstrong where exactly a voice like that comes from, she simply looked me in the eye, laughed a little and replied, “I wish I knew.” But please, do not underestimate the rhythm section of this band. Songs like “Weatherman” are accented poignantly with rolling snare and punchy bass lines that resonate inside your chest. Behind a screaming front woman is a mess of arms, hair and sticks thrashing away like a rock God. Interestingly enough, Dead Sara only took form into the current line up a few short years ago, as Medley and Armstrong went through a few drummers and bassists before recruiting Friday and Null. It seems to have been a wise decision, as the group explains their creative process as a natural, flowing entity conceived in the meddling of the studio and fostered by the eagerness and excitement of finding a riff and expanding on it.
Though quiet on stage, backstage finds them relaxed and mellow, more like a group of old friends than rock stars who seemed very nonchalant about the being interviewed endlessly thing. Fresh off of Van’s Warped Tour (where they had to cancel the last leg of the tour due to Medley’s fractured ribs) and bouncing around the U.S., fans can catch them on the bill for ShipRocked 2012 along with heavy hitters Godsmack and Korn. Keep an eye on this band; before you know it they’ll be headlining major tours and selling out venues. I wish them well in their endeavors and hope they find rising fame kind.
Second to the stage representing the alternative genre with their energetic, bouncy vibe and electrified music was Neon Trees. Personally, I was only familiar with their radio singles, “Animal” and “Everybody Talks.” However, I was impressed with the vocal clarity, as lead singer Tyler Glenn is just as clean and crisp as he appears on studio recordings, often bending his voice into interesting pitches while adding colorful tones. Neon Trees offered a slightly longer set, featuring an electric light display that matched their fun sound. I was pleasantly surprised as the band played as tight as a drum and executed it with flawless presentation. Glenn also offered witty banter between songs, keeping the crowd entertained on multiple fronts. Something of a contrast to the grit of the previous set, the audience slipped into the bouncing tunes with ease. They even launched into a cover of “State Trooper.” And what is a summer show in Asbury Park without Bruce Springsteen? Overall, the band that has been called an evolutionary step in the glam rock scene proves this is no misnomer.
Which leads us to our main event, The Offspring. Having been a fan since childhood, this was my first time seeing the group live. Let me preface by first saying I have heard for many years that Dexter Holland cannot hit certain recorded notes live. That being said, I took this as an opportunity to see for myself.
Regardless of that, they played an amazing 19 song set complete with two encores. The Offspring opened with “Hurting As One,” a track off their latest album Days Go By. Though the new album clearly had its place in their set list, performing the current single “Days Go By” early in the night, they also played every song I wanted to hear. When the bass line to “Bad Habit” kicked in, older fans in the crowd began to cheer. Singing along, loud and proud, the group paused just before launching into a cadre of swear words energetically backed by Noodles distorted guitar. Another highlight was the slow piano introduction of “Gone Away.” As it crept to a head, Dead Sara’s own Emily Armstrong took to the stage once more to join Dexter on the chorus, adding an even more haunting effect to the overall emotion of the song. As for the vocals mentioned earlier, I am sad to report that the rumors were true. During one moment of the night when the main vocals fell out of rhythm for a brief second, I was able to hear a pre-recorded audio track played underneath. I was a little disappointed when I realized Dexter was either shortening the length of, or unable to hold out, all the characteristic long phrases heard so often on their records. However I am a forgiving fan, dismissing his vocal shortcomings and simply singing even louder, because after all they still put on one hell of a show. The music rocked, the energy was buzzing and the crowd was an eclectic bunch of punk rockers and rock n’ rollers (that could have used a lesson in proper moshing/skanking).
Honestly, this is probably the most fun I’ve had at a concert in a long time. I was thoroughly engaged and entertained from start to finish and highly recommend catching this specific line up before the last date of the tour. You won’t regret it, even if it takes a road trip.