A stellar evening of acoustic punk rock took over a sleepy central New Jersey live music venue Saturday night to a sold out capacity crowd. The Crossroads in Garwood, NJ and a more than ready crowd gathered to see the second round of Andy Diamond’s stellar line up of Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, The Scandals’ Jared Hart, Plow United’s Brian McGee, and last but certainly not least Tommy Gunn. Round one was a mere three weeks prior featuring the same line up.
Tommy Gunn, of Communication Redlight fame, set things off with an entertaining forty minute set of both his own songs and some covers to “keep you guys interested between my sad songs”. Some of these covers included The Clash as well as a raucous version of Hank Williams Jr.’s “O.D’d In Denver “ that would have made Ol’ Bocephus proud. Tommy’s former band’s sole purpose was to blaze on the post hardcore movement made famous by Ian Mackaye’s Fugazi and the like. A pale ale and tobacco tinged set of vocal prowess was on display as well as some deep rooted emotion in his own penned efforts.
Next up on the night was Brian McGee from the now defunct Plow United. He played a bunch of new songs from his upcoming album Ruin Creek which seemed to take on a more folk punk sound then his other efforts. A stand out was a new song about a truck driver which immediately insulted NJ drivers much to the crowds disdain. A typical comment by Philly bred NJ living residents. It was sweet to see the excitement on Brian’s face as he explained his wife was due to give birth to their first child literally any minute. He delivered a powerful set of straight up street punk songs all the way to bonafide folky twang even wearing his mouth harp for a couple songs. The highlight was “Sunday Morning Coming Down” written by the legendary Kris Kristofferson , who McGee touted as his favorite song writer of all time, and recorded by a slew of artists most notably the rest of The Highwaymen. Mcgee later joined Brian Fallon and bassist Catherine Popper as the side project including Fallon called Molly and the Zombies.
Jared Hart of the Bayonne, NJ based The Scandals by far was the most voracious of the bunch. They have a new record entitled Time Machines set for release this spring. Definitely carrying the torch of stellar Jersey punk rockers The Bouncing Souls and headlining artist of the night’s band The Gaslight Anthem. Jared’s set was nothing short of damn near perfect. The crowd was enlisted to sing the choruses and did the deed well enough to be “hired” as stated by Jared, definitely made a new fan of yours truly. Jared has a singing voice reminiscent of Ben Nichols’ of Lucero’s whisky soaked gravelly delivery with the soul and in your face style of Chuck Ragan. He brought Tommy Gunn to the stage for backup vocals for a creative rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”. The latter closed out his set.
Brian Fallon took the stage and did what he does best…tears your heart out with gut wrenching raw emotion and Sprinsteen style American anthems. This was my first time seeing Brian at all live as a solo artist or with The Gaslight Anthem, pretty sad for a New Jersey bred self -proclaimed consummate digger and show junkie, not to say I’m not a fan, I most certainly am. His entire set was a sing along by almost the entire sold out crowd. Brian wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s refreshing to see an artist as humble as he is and genuinely loving what he’s doing and how much people take to his songs. It was a buffet of songs from all four officially released Gaslight albums and demos, and even an “Atlantic City” cover of the one and only, NJ’s #1 son Bruce Springsteen. He reflected on how he and the band have gotten to this point saying, “we went on tour with Against Me!, Springsteen noticed us, and here we are”, pretty cool stuff and deservedly so. The acoustic set began with a spirited version of “45” from the newest record Handwritten. Some highlights included “Stay Lucky”, “We Came To Dance”, and a stellar version of a personal favorite “National Anthem”. The aforementioned joining of Brian McGee and bassist Catherine Popper rounded out the Molly and the Zombies mini set where they played the just released songs “Red Lights” and “Sketchy”. Closing out the show Fallon mentioned The Gaslight Anthem will be headed to Nashville, TN to start work on a new record that will be recorded in the same studio, actually even same room where The White Stripes recorded “Ickey Thump”. He hopes to catch some of that energy….so do I.
+Words: Scott Zuppardo+