“Every time we headline a show, I’m almost confident no one’s gonna show up,” confesses Weatherbox frontman Brian Warren in between songs.
The crowd looks around and lightly chuckles. It’s hard to believe the thought even crosses his mind. For a dark and stormy Tuesday night, Asbury Lanes holds a sizeable crowd. Everyone is standing shoulder-to-shoulder, eagerly singing along, witnessing in dumbstruck amazement the rhythmic complexity and melodious lines Weatherbox is notoriously known for delivering without fail. Their newest album, Flies In All Directions is an absolute must-listen. Dikembe’s Steven Gray has already termed it, “the album of the decade”.
A mid-July evening in Asbury Park is likely to encounter boardwalk nightlife, beach-goers, and other summertime revelers – but not tonight. Outside it’s bleak and desolate. Lightning repetitively strikes the sky, thunder rolls one boom after another. Beyond the door is a steady remainder of a dissipating torrential downpour, just beginning to slow down from monsoon-like proportions. What were gales of wind, perhaps strong enough to carry someone away to the edge of the coastline and deposit them into the surf, are now dying down to light ocean breezes.
But despite the slightly foreboding, yet fading Day After Tomorrow vibe outside, NJ locals D’Arcy kick off the night, warming up the crowd with throaty yells, guitar solos, and feedback aplenty, all steeped in a 90s Grunge reeducation.
Next up are Asbury natives, Ghost House. Though reminiscent of The Wonder Years, frontman Zach West holds his own as he and guitarist Howie Cohen exchange vocals and sideways glances.
When Dikembe hits the stage, the vibe of the room noticeably changes. The crowd
quickly shuffles closer with rapt attention. After sorting through some minor technical difficulties (frontman Steven Gray’s guitar is uncooperative tonight, prompting him to borrow another from Ghost House), the lads tune up, drummer David Bell removes his shirt, and Dikembe begins. The Gainesville, FL quartet’s new record (Mediumship) is officially out. They play some new songs off it including “24 Karats”, “Gets Harder” and “Donuts In a Six Speed” where many times it appears bassist Randy Reddell’s hands are going to come flying right off from the rapid intensity of his playing. Dikembe’s set is nothing short of electrifying. The heart and soul of their performance is palpable, spawning many
to move about in half-dance, half-head nod. They close out with a powerful cover of “Where Is My Mind” that the Pixies themselves would have little choice but to bow down in humble appreciation and respect. Their departure leaves the crowd hungry for more.
Before dominating the evening, Weatherbox approaches the stage tweaking their instruments and amps, fiddling with pedalboard settings, getting the tone just right. They immediately launch into “Pagan Baby”, the first track off Flies In All Directions. Brian Warren brazenly sings out: “Baked into the crust, I’m comfy, reading eulogies / You heard I was a nice boy; Well, you didn’t hear it from me”. The rest of the night rolls along without a hitch as Warren leads into more new songs like “Kickflips” and “Drag Out”, complete with the album-identical nearly neverending ending, the crowd screaming in unison, “Maybe magic don’t come back, don’t come back / COME BACK, COME BACK”. At this point, Warren is visibly pouring sweat, his greasy, tangled hair becoming more matted and knotted with each heart-heavy sway. Throughout the performance, he bounces between a black and red Telecaster and a semi-hollow body Epiphone with untrimmed strings flailing. He looks like a madman possessed, his troubled soul wrung out to dry. For not having played on the album, Warren’s accompanying band is pretty close to perfect, laying down every lick, fill, and riff with uncanny precision. His eyes wander around the room on “Dark All Night For Us” softly singing, “Don’t suffocate your lungs, hoping to be forever young / You can’t make art in a vacuum state or become something great alone / You need a friend to depend on”. Towards the end of their set, Dikembe’s Steven Gray gets on stage one last time to sing Andy Hull’s (Manchester Orchestra, Bad Books) verse on “The Devil and Whom”, and to the delight of more seasoned Weatherbox fans, the band closes out with “Broken Glowsticks” off EP, Follow the Rattle of the Afghan Guitar.
When Warren sings, “You won’t find a band like mine”, the room nods along in rhythmic testament with knowledge of its inherent truth. Weatherbox is a jeweled ship in an ocean of mediocrity with the ability to quell any storm, so that all may come and bear witness.