Jeff Rosenstock’s Bottleneck show made instant friends of the whole room
with Nnamdi and Catbite
Tuesday, June 21
The last time I saw Jeff Rosenstock, his former band Bomb the Music Industry! was playing a basement show three blocks from my house. In the intervening decade, the musician has released a series of acclaimed releases under his own name, recorded with a revolving collective of musicians known as Death Rosenstock, and even recently popped up on Late Night with Seth Myers, performing with Canadian punk rockers Pup.
At the Bottleneck on Tuesday, Rosenstock performed a selection of music from across his discography, but focusing in on his latest release, No Dreams, a wildly interesting collection of songs that draw from every aspect of genres as diverse as indie, noise, ska, punk rock, and confessional acoustic.
The Bottleneck was pretty full halfway through openers Catbite’s set, and by the time Death Rosenstock took the stage, the venue was remarkably packed for a Tuesday night in a college town with the students mostly gone. Rosenstock’s band features several musicians known to Lawrence, such as Mustard Plug’s Rick Johnson on keys. It was a ska-punk intergenerational coming-together.
The band’s set was energetic and messy and a series of audience sing-alongs, while being orchestrated by the frontman’s exhortations to respect one another’s boundaries. Maybe a basement show can’t be completely transported to a proper club, but perhaps its ethics can. A sweaty pile-on was pretty much nonstop throughout Rosenstock’s set, but at no point was it anything other than a joyous, collective celebration of musical friendship.
I definitely ran into the guy who walks his dogs past my front porch every morning and we connected in exuberant fandom, is what I’m saying. By the time “You, In Weird Cities” turned the Bottleneck into a karaoke bar, everyone was friends with everyone who was next to them. Nobody noticed the rainstorm outside, because the music and show were that entertaining and entrancing.
Avant-pop act Nmamdi, fronted by Chicago’s Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, middled between Rosenstock and Catbite. Thanks to the headliner’s assistance, Nnamdi’s guitar issues were solved before the set started, and he promised to break no more than six more strings. Their occasionally angular, often dissonant, yet still pop-infused songs were riveting. It was a strange conflagration of baroque arrangements and densely-abrasive indie, but the songs still hypnotized. It was as if Sufjan Stevens wrote arrangements for a Gang of Four set, but it worked.
Philadelphia ska punks Catbite are a band whom I’ve been wanting to see for several years and were a major draw in pulling me off my couch and away from my cats for an evening. Their opening set was a blast of energy that had the space in front of the stage turned into a bopping, skanking dancefloor. Their energy was absolutely infectious, and Catbite’s songs were the catchiest batch of songs since Save Ferris and Dance Hall Crashers were going concerns. Frontwoman Brittany Luna danced her way through one song, then led the crowd in the proper hand gestures for the racing “Scratch Me Up,” and by the song’s end, any member of the audience not in Catbite’s thrall was fully brought into the fold by the time the band hit their penultimate song with a cover of The Clash’s “White Riot.”