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Don Giovanni Records, Showcase, Friday, February 7th, 2014

Sharp Shellshag Shock

Sharp Shellshag Shock
















From New Brunswick basements in 2013 to alternative mainstream success in 2014, New Jersey’s indie label has become an institution of sorts. Founded by Joseph Steinhardt and Zach Gajewski, they are, not unlike another Don in a different kitchen, a family type label in a cutthroat business.

Bands have come and gone but many have remained, enough to fill 5 bands a night for three nights, including the middle one at Music Hall Of Williamsburg last Friday. Headlining Laura Stevenson, who I missed, the line up included power poppers the Warriors, the modern world jam of Nude Beach, super-groupish Upset and a band that personifies so many things so significant to Don Giovanni…

Shellshag Forever was their last release and Shell (John Driver) and Shag (Jennifer Shagawat) may well have been referring about each other but as the audience erupted in a spontaneous roar of approval, it seemed like they were were speaking for them as well. The band has a casual intensity about them, face to face with their weirdly constructed double mic, there is an easy casualty which results in a smooth ride for 45 minutes; smooth but not without musical mayhem. The highlight of the night was a club wide singalong to “Body Of The Bird” with, yes, Zach himself body surfing. It was an odd set, we didn’t get “Face To Face” or “Drive By Song” though we did get “Forever”. Laura joined the duo for a cover of Lemonheads “Down About It” -a pretty excellent version but much like the night itself, the tempo a touch slow. Certainly, Shag’s penultimate song of he night seemed a little misplaced. It shouldn’t have worked but it did work, it more than worked: Shellshag seemed to personify a punk DIY attitude that is everything we love about the record label.

Earlier in the evening, the Worriers performed a fine set of punk pop lead by Lauren Measure, a good frontwoman with enough personality to hold your attention. Nude Beach were a tab of acid and a guitar solo away from being a classic rock jam band, Jimmy Shelton plays a mean lick.

But Upset were something else entirely. If seeing the great Patty Schemel formerly of Hole from back when Hole were, you know, awesome, drumming wasn’t reward enough, former Best Coast current Vivian Girl Ali Koehler, I remember seeing Vivian Girls at the Whitney a coupla years ago and taking away from the set one clear though, “the drummer rocks”. Ali is a natural bandleader and a pleasure to watch and the set was first rate, especially “Closing Time” which I love on the album as well.

So four for four for Don Giovanni and I’m sorry I missed Laura Stevenson, who was so kind as to contact the Wonder Years for us a couple of months ago, but cmon, don’t go on stage at 1130p!

Nevermind, catch ya next year.

Grade: A-


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