By Liz Kaempf
If you were wondering what you would get when you combined boys, guitars, a lit stage and Rock Star energy drink, it would be this past week’s RockYoFaceCase at the University Café. Hostess and brainchild behind the musical events, Patrice Zapiti, got the crowd psyched up to see three local bands on Monday night, and as usual, she looked damn fine doing it. The audience looked forward to opener three-piece band Magnificent Beast, L.I. rockstars Royal City Riot, and up-and-comers Neighbors, as well as being treated to intermittently spread energy drink flipcup games and DJ jam sessions.
Magnificent Beast is an all SBU student three-piece band that opened the showcase with their mix of laidback vocals and energetic guitar melodies. Guitarists Henry Schiller and Carlos Parreno are no rookies to the campus scene, as they’ve found themselves mixing it up with a myriad of other musicians on campus, but new drummer, Brian Lind, could be the difference maker for this group. He killed it on the drum kit and with the help and experience of his band mates, Magnificent Beast threw down a five-song set that kicked off the show with a bang. Their songs invoked a lightheartedness that paired well with the sunny weather that followed that week and proved musicianship is by far the most important part of being on stage. The downfall of a three-piece band, however, is that there are only three parts. But the boys solved that problem with what I’m going to call the “KT Tunstall”, for lack of a better expression. They countered the three-instrument problem with the layering effects of a loop pedal that filled out their sound and gave them a brilliant and easygoing jam session vibe that you couldn’t miss, especially in a song like “Cloud Pleaser”.
Next on the lineup were the seasoned veterans of Royal City Riot. Not your typical ska band, these guys take a more blues and reggae approach to their sound and, man, do they deliver. The crowd was filled with suspender-wearing punk rockers, who, of course, are big fans of the only dance white kids don’t look awkward doing; skanking. (The name is so apropos, no?) Their horn section (which includes SBU attendee Jon Degen, who knocks it out of the park on sax) is not as big as the typical ska group, but their rhythm section was off the charts and their precision was dead on; RCR didn’t miss a beat. They laid out grooves left and right and fill a room to capacity with plump and soulful tracks. If I’m not mistaken, every song was a crowd favorite, even though they didn’t play “Paumanok”, much to the dismay of one fan who perpetually called out for it. However, they solidified their reggae roots with a cover song by Bob Marley when they were closing out their set. This was the first time I got to hear Royal City Riot live, and I’m already hooked. The band is down to earth with an infectious sound that is bound to reel in any nearby listeners.
Lastly, Neighbors took the stage in their debut show, and they brought a fan bus worth of people with them. Handsome gentlemen in tight pants was the theme of the night, and it worked just as well for these new guys as it did for the first two groups. They ripped their set wide open with their song “Bodies”, and it was no surprise that so many in the audience knew all the words. Stony Brook’s own Ian Kenny led this group with his powerful vocals, perfected keyboard skills, and dynamic stage presence. But Neighbors took a much harder approach to the music than the rest in the showcase and they weren’t nearly as light and breezy. The band’s sound combines driving rhythms, though-provoking lyrics and some amazing guitar solos to get the adrenaline pumping and your heart beating out of your chest like it was being hit by the foot pedal of the bass drum. They were a huge hit with the crowd, and will no doubt rake in even more of a fan base after this performance. Neighbors’ debut show flaunted a talent and synchronization that is hard to find in such a young group, but these boys pull it off with ease. I’m sure this will by no means be the last we see of the boys on our campus, because Neighbors came out swinging, and you know they’re here to stay.
Be sure to check out Royal City Riot and Neighbors on their Facebook and MySpace pages, and remember, only you can help save the scene! So make sure you get your ass to the next RockYoFaceCase and support our incredible homegrown talent!
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