Pop-Break Live: River City Extension at The Stone Pony

bill bodkin gives thanks for a great show in Asbury Park, N.J. …

It was a hands-a-clappin’, sing-in-unison, bathe-yourself-in-the-beauty-of-good-music kinda night at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J.m on Thanksgiving Eve. It was a night when a crowd filled with varsity jacketed high schoolers, sharp-dressed hipsters and returning frat and sorority heads came together because of their love for the music of River City Extension. It was insane watching a woman dressed as though she had walked off the set of Boardwalk Empire standing next a frat guy in a dirty t-shirt and baggy sweats singing their hearts out as River City Extension tore the house down.

The Opener
The Front Bottoms
Ever since we first spoke with The Front Bottoms back in the fall, we’ve been infatuated with what this band has been doing. And on this evening, The FBs’ set brought me back to 2009 when I saw River City Extension open for Nicole Atkins at The Stone Pony. There was a rabid, loyal fan base that knew every word to every song treating the band like they were Zeppelin reborn. While they might not be dropping the hammer of the gods, The Front Bottoms proved not only do they have the live chops to match their tremendous album sound, but they are so engaging, so dynamic that they are going to become a band that’ll be next to break out big from the New Jersey scene. On this night The Front Bottoms proved they are a must-see band for people craving new, original music.

Praire Empire
The Brooklyn band appeared in duo form. They had a tough act to follow as The Front Bottoms’ fans seemed to vacate the area as soon as they left the stage. However, I was very impressed by what this band has to offer. The vocals of Prairie Empire frontwoman Brittain Ashford were fantastic. They were so evocative and emotional. Meanwhile, the band’s drummer/guitarist was extremely impressive as he was literally playing the bass drum and playing electric guitar at the same time. It was a strong set that makes me want to hear more from the band.

Wild Rompit
Wild Rompit is a Jersey-born, Philly-raised band that has soul for days. The scratchy, Derek Trucks-y lead vocals of Blair Ollendorf are what makes Wild Rompit stand out from the sea of blue-eyed soul rock ‘n’ roll bands out there. Their set is very high-energy, very enjoyable. It seemed as though the band ran out of gas towards the end of their set — but if you moved around and let it all hang out like Wild Rompit it did, you’d be exhausted too.

Waking Lights
To paraphrase fellow concert-goer Rob Fitzgerald, bassist for Those Mockingbirds, ‘Waking Lights has never put on a bad show man.” And tonight was no different. Waking Lights really grabbed the crowd, amped for River City Extension and made them take notice. You have to commend them on this because when a show has this man openers, a crowd can get antsy, disinterested and frankly annoyed with opening bands. Waking Lights totally rocked the Pony.

The Main Event
River City Extension
When River City Extension hit the stage, they grabbed the crowd at The Stone Pony by the soul and never let go. The reception they got from on this evening was comparable to that of a returning hero coming off after a long, glorious series of adventures abroad. And in many ways, this has been the story of River City Extension since they last graced The Pony’s stage with their endless touring and festival gigs and the creating and recording of a new album.

The crowd seemed like they couldn’t stand the wait any longer, and when lead singer Joe Michelini stepped up to the mic, fans roared with excitement. This reception made me wonder if this was what it was like back in the day when E Street would return to Asbury. Honestly the opening of the band’s set was so magical, you felt as though you were caught in an honest to goodness musical moment — like you were watching a band become stars right before your eyes.

Having not seen RCE perform in two years, it was easy to notice how much the band has evolved. Their bright-eyed earnestness has not waned in the least yet the air of the ingenue is long gone. This band has confidence, they’ve grown up and become a full-fledged band, they know how to command the stage, how to evoke passion and excitement from their audience.

River City blazed through their set with fire and passion, and take my words seriously when I say this band is going to be the next band to explode onto the national scene. They will be a household name sooner than any of us will realize — so if you can see them while they’re still playing venues like The Stone Pony, I highly recommend you getting a ticket as soon as possible.

Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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