Every weekend, if I can, I try to take off of my job for one night to do something fun. Sometimes it is just going to a party; sometimes it’s to see a show or a comedian like Jon Stewart. No matter what I choose, inevitably, at the end of the night I am left wondering if I chose the right day. Was I right to take off on Friday to see The Whistling Shrimp? Or should I have passed it up and caught Das Racist on Saturday?
This past Friday I took off work with the excuse that I was reviewing The Haunt’s double bill of Maps & Atlases and Jukebox the Ghost. I had the Maps & Atlases album Beware and Be Grateful on my iPod and had listened to it from time to time when I wanted to hear something relaxing but not sleepy. It seemed like a good excuse to make the trip down to The Haunt.
I arrived during the opening act, a local band from Rochester called The Demos. The band, founded by Jay Milton and Cal Saunders, had some pleasing melodies, and by the end the audience could sing along a little. However, the crowd never really filled the venue until the middle of Maps & Atlases’ set.
Although Maps & Atlases sounded as good as its album, the slow stride of its music made it hard for the crowd to get into. The crowd started swaying during some of the band’s more popular songs, such as “Winter and Remote” and “Dark Years,” but people were mostly just watching the artists with curiosity. Lead singer Dave Davison has an interesting presence: His long hair, folksy beard, dark-rimmed glasses, Omar Rodriguez Lopez shirt and deep voice make him look and sound decades older than he is. Bassist Shiraz Dada danced back and forth in his suspenders to every song and drummer Chris Hainey’s hair continued blowing backwards through the set as if he was in a photo shoot (I’m still convinced there was a fan somewhere). Their mannerisms, and Davison’s unique, grainy tone, made them a fun act to watch, but their pacing and lack of emotion left the crowd with low energy.
Jukebox the Ghost was the perfect cure. While I was at the show for Maps & Atlases, it seemed clear that everyone else had just been patiently waiting for Jukebox. The crowd finally burst alive as the band took the stage and started its first song. The high energy of Jukebox was exactly what everyone needed. The people on the suddenly-packed floor were singing and bobbing along to the melody-driven music with excitement.
The music was energetic in part because of Jukebox’s upbeat songs, but I have to credit the crowd’s enthusiasm to keyboardist and lead singer Ben Thornewill, whose charisma and a genuine smile left, at least me, a little in love. The trio’s songs “Somebody” and “At Last” were the biggest crowd pleasers, and by the closing note everyone knew the words. Jukebox left the crowd wanting more, and came out strong for the encore with its biggest hits.
When I came home, I sat down to look up Jukebox the Ghost, absorbing its tunes through my Spotify account. I recognized the songs and could still bob to the melodies, but it didn’t compare to listening in person. The fever of the crowd and the sound reverberating on the walls had been a part of the music. If you are a Jukebox the Ghost fan or a future fan who might happen to look it up, I highly recommend catching one of their shows the next time they go on tour.
I came to the show wondering why Dan Smalls ’92 had chosen Jukebox to headline the show and left with no doubt in my mind. I walked out of The Haunt with a picture with Dave Davison and a smile as radiant as Ben Thornewill’s on my lips. This weekend I was pretty sure that I picked the right night to take off.