Live: The Rock Yard Persists In Bushwick

Live: The Rock Yard Persists In Bushwick
Karen Plemons

Rock Yard: The Growlers, Japanther, The Death Set, Cerebral Ballzy, The So So Glos, CSC Funk Band The Morgan Sunday, August 7

Better than: The all-ages punk shows you went to in middle school.

Standing in the dirt parking lot of The Morgan in Bushwick for yesterday's JellyNYC Rock Yard event, it was to forget all the nonsense that had brought the bands and spectators there. Here's a tattered toddler mattress being thrown around like a beach ball; there are some Jell-O shots available for free, more or less; all around are bands playing at ear-damaging volumes. Sundays in the summer have always been thus, right?

Well, it should have been. Instead, JellyNYC, who put on the show, has been playing Icarus in a summer with a very harsh sun. Let's plow through it quickly: JellyNYC, the people behind the storied McCarren Pool Parties of summers past, attempted to recapture a bit of that glory with Rock Beach, held in deep Brooklyn. The combination of an inconvenient location and "up-and-coming" bands didn't quite inspire legions of fans to embark on the arduous hour plus train and bus ride out there, and after just two shows (and a small media war), the sponsor packed up and the event was canceled.

Well, sort of. Jelly kept all the bands (and even the same banners) originally scheduled for yesterday's Rock Beach show and moved the whole thing back home to Bushwick, reviving the Rock Yard moniker which they've used to throw occasional shows since last summer.

The So So Glos were playing as I walked in, the second band of the day. This is surprisingly low on the bill for a band who recently toured (parts of) the country with perpetual college sweethearts Matt & Kim, but perhaps they had other professional obligations-jetting to Montauk to film a Levis commercial or some such-requiring them to play early and leave. They put on the day's most polished set. They're uniquely talented at writing tightly wound tracks that manage to sound jittery and punkish without being abrasive or overly assaulting your senses.

If any of the other bands performing yesterday cared about assault, it was in making sure you were assaulted. Cerebral Ballzy and The Death Set performed back to back, and their sets went by in one long, loud blur. There was crowd surfing, moshing, ripping of tree branches, and jumping on the 10-foot amplifier stacks. Songs were dedicated to "doing drugs" and "cutting school," both to rapturous applause. Cerebral Ballzy's singer, Honor Titus, has a way of screaming in a way at once high-pitched, mush-mouthed, and impossible to understand. Heavy-lidded and in a Carolina Panthers jersey for the first half of his set, he whipped the crowd into a screaming, crowd-surfing frenzy that they'd more or less sustain for the rest of the night. It was sublime.

While pseudo-headliners Japanther were duct-taping their phone receiver microphones to the mic stands, a severely intoxicated woman with peroxided hair and newsprint-patterend capris did something like a hostile impression of a striptease, flipping off the crowd and yelling "Fuck you!" as she danced and pretended to prepare to take her clothes off. Two songs later, she was stumbling out the door, red faced and seemingly deep in an argument with someone who seemed to be her boyfriend.

Eventually, Japanther, who announced themselves as "less of a band and more of a joke," took the stage. Japanther works in roughly the same distorted and angry punk/hardcore vein as the rest of the bill, but they've been doing it since most of the band members were cutting middle school seemed like the day's elder statesmen. Perhaps this is why they doled out advice between songs. "Don't take yourself too seriously, don't open your eyes, and go swimming," Matt Reilly said at one point. They were as snotty as anyone, but their volume has dipped slightly with age, which was easy to be thankful for after hours of subwoofer attacks.

At some point between sets, I discovered that it was possible to slip through a small door at the back of the yard and escape the sunshine; the door led directly to the stage at the back of The Morgan. I saw votive candles, a couple furiously making out, a pair of kids trying to ollie their skateboards off the stage, and a few dudes casually cutting up lines on a long wooden table. It was terribly Bushwick, and it made me terribly glad that Jelly had come home. Don't ever leave again.

Critical bias: I'm 29, which is about 1000 in outdoor Bushwick concert years.

Overheard: "That was kind of shitty, but kind of awesomely shitty."

Random notebook dump: The dirt-and-gravel dodgeball pit was ringed in by a fence and prowled by men more muscular than any I've seen at a show-some kind of travelling dodgeball pros?-whose bulging pecs and greening tattoos made the whole thing more like a prison yard than a fun indie frivolity.

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